Jim Brown – a simple name, but a complex man, may he RIP

Before Tina Turner passed away, another icon died, named Jim Brown. Brown was a legendary football running back for the Cleveland Browns and was arguably one of the best who ever played that position.

But, he was far more than that. He retired early to become an actor and was in a few dozen films. Most notably, he was in one of my favorite films called “The Dirty Dozen,” but more on that later.

What he should be also remembered for is he was an outspoken civil rights advocate and worked closely with Martin Luther King. Brown and three other legendary black athletes, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) of the UCLA Bruins all jointly spoke out for the rights of blacks. Brown was the centerpiece spokesperson.

Their outspokenness differs from the relative silence of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and their contemporaries who did not want to risk their endorsements. It is good to see current athletes like Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick speak out risking their careers. Kaepernick’s career has been ruined because of the backlash against his efforts.

Brown led the way with the other three stars of his day. He was not perfect and there are stories of domestic abuse. If true, this is an awful and a severe indictment of the man. It shows that notoriety does not mean they can do no wrong. Yet, to not mention his sins and crimes would be an unfair rendering of his life.

Let me close with a positive story from a boy who loved “The Dirty Dozen.” Brown’s character was sadly killed after a heroic scene in the movie. It was befitting his heroic nature as a football star, but was sad to see. Maybe it is a good reflection on sports heroes in general. They are very good at their craft and can use their platform for good as Brown did. But, that does not mean they are perfect. And, they should be held accountable for bad behavior just like all of us would.


About that woke thing – per the wisdom of Reverend John Pavlovitz

From the wisdom of a progressive and practical minister named John Pavlovitz, his latest post called “My woke liberal agenda” is responding to be called woke and how dangerous that is. The entire post can be found below with the link. Picking up his response to several accusations by a critical blogger who said after earlier comments:

You liberals and your agenda are the real danger here!” 

Reverend Pavlovitz then opined for us:

“Then it hit me.
I realized that I’d been found out.
My cover had been blown.
I’d have to come clean and cop to the charges.

I knew I needed to make a full confession to my social media prosecutor and to the watching world—so here it is,

My ‘Woke Liberal Agenda’ on gun violence:

Not normalizing the fact that tens of thousands of people are murdered each year in American schools, churches, supermarkets, and playgrounds—and calling out the professed Christians not worshiping the guns used to kill them.

Asking why, in their rabid and incessant defense of the 2nd Amendment, Conservative American gun lovers willfully overlook both the ‘well-regulated’ and ‘Militia’ portions.

Wondering why these same folks seem far less passionate about the 1st Amendment, when people like me suggest that their guns and their gunlust may actually be the gun problem we have here.

Asking why America has the highest gun homicide rate of any developed country—and suggesting that it has something to do with the NRA’s influence on the gun laws of this country, the number of guns in the system, and the cowboy culture created around them.

Forcing Republicans out of the bed they’re in with the NRA, because their continual expression of ‘thoughts and prayers’ when followed by complete inaction—may as well be bullets for the next mass shooting.

Mentally ill people and criminals not having access to handguns—and asking Republican leaders why they removed the barriers that made such things difficult and why they have continually defunded mental healthcare.

Respecting mass shooting victims enough to talk about them while the world actually gives a damn about them—and before they’re soon replaced the next day or the next week by more mass shooting victims we’re told that it’s ‘too soon’ for us to talk about.

And while we’re at it, here’s the rest of my woke Liberal Agenda:

Demanding that the actual history of America be taught to American children, including the parts white Conservative Christians find uncomfortable.

Insisting the LGBTQ human beings be given every right to govern their bodies, define their families, marry the person they love, and live free of the moral views of strangers.

Pushing back against Nazis, white supremacists, and racists—whether they’re marching in the streets or marching through Congress.

Ensuring that women and have autonomy over their own bodies and that their doctors get to advise them on their healthcare decisions, not Republican politicians.

Exposing a white Evangelical Church that passionately cultivates contempt for LGBTQ people, for Muslims, for non-Christians—and wants to escape culpability for the violence this visits upon them.

Contending that people fortunate enough to be born in America aren’t more inherently valuable or more deserving of liberty than those who were not born here.

Affirming that God is neither white, nor male, nor American, nor Christian—and that God doesn’t specifically bless America.

Demanding that no one have to choose between life-saving care or paying their mortgage.

Opposing any religious tradition that attempts to contest with musty doctrine, what Science has made clear about this world.

Insisting that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we’re sitting on be protected from degradation—not subjected to it by those of us fortunate enough to be here.

A diverse and equitable nation that makes room for more than just white American, Republican Christians who were lucky enough to be born here.

Yeah, you know—now that I see it all in black and white like this, I suppose it is dangerous: fewer guns, more barriers to having them, less money for gun lobbyists, Christian politicians and leaders who actually resemble Jesus—and equality for people despite their gender identity, sexual orientation, physical condition, religious tradition, pigmentation, or nation of origin.

I could see how someone could view that as a problem, how it could feel threatening.

Yes, I stand here accused of this subversive, dangerous, supposedly America-destroying woke Liberal Agenda.”

I will let us words stand without much comment. His opinion is one we should pay attention to, whether you or in full agreement or not. His best gift is to make us think and be aware of how that is or is not aligned with the teachings of that Jesus fellow.


Sand castle virtues – a repeat of an important theme

I was listening closely to an old song called “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, when a phrase struck me more so than before. Jethro Tull is renowned for interesting and unusual lyrics mixed in with equal parts flute, guitars and piano making a unique sound. Yet, amidst the lyrics is a reference to “sand castle virtues.” Here is the stanza which includes the term, penned by Ian Anderson:

“And the sand castle virtues are all swept away
In the tidal destruction, the moral melee
The elastic retreat rings the close of play
As the last wave uncovers the newfangled way”

I found this reference profoundly insightful, as many of our so-called virtues are not as concrete as we would like them to be. In other words, they are easily washed away by the waves and replaced by a modified version meeting a new paradigm. This is one reason people can support a candidate or politician who changes posture on a topic. Or, when the candidate was against an issue earlier when the opposing party supported it, but now favors it as it suits his interests today, we followers can overlook the previous stance.

The tide has washed away the previous virtuous stance and has been replaced. What is interesting to me is this song was written in the 1970s, so it is referencing that these malleable virtues or positions have been around a lot longer than today. The only difference is today we can more easily find the previous position, which may have only been stated a few years before. Yet, we don’t ask questions of why you have changed. In essence, we are “thick as a brick” by not staying on top of things and realizing when smoke is being blown at us.

Speaking through my imperfections, I find it hard to fathom why we choose virtues like we are at a cafeteria. A friend of mine uses the reference to “cafeteria Christians,” not to pick on this religion, but use it as an example. Some will cherry pick the parts of the bible they support, but overlook overarching themes. But, this occurs in other religions as well.

If we focus on the overarching virtues and endeavor to do the right thing, we will be on more solid footing. It is when we try to massage a virtue to meet an ideologue or a position, do we risk our position being washed away with the tide. Here are few that would solidify our foundation:

– Treat others like you want to be treated

– Be more inclusive, rather than exclusive

– You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion

– Kindness is not a weakness and in fact is a quiet strength

– It is easy to love someone when things go well; only when they don’t is it hard

– Help your neighbor when he needs it, as you may be in need one day

– Pay attention to what leaders are doing and shine a light on poor behavior

– Treat our environment well for the next generation, which is even noted in the bible

I could go on, but these are a few virtues that would not be washed away. These virtues are far more than sand castles and could stand the greater test of time and barrage of waves. And, if we did these things day in and day out, they would become ingrained making us less “thick as a brick.”

The truth will set you free

As an old fart, I have gleaned several truths over the years listening to and reading the words of people much smarter than me. Here are just a few of those truths, at least per this editor of information.

A great leader is one who defers more credit to others and accepts more blame even when it is undue. Think of this when you hear a notorious former president (or any elected official for that matter) take credit and blame others on a routine basis. Bad leaders use too many “I” and “me” words to define success. “I, alone, can solve our problems” was uttered before the presidential election in 2016 at the GOP convention, but that is as much narcissistic as it untrue.

Telling your creditors you can’t pay your bills is not part of productive strategy to balance your budget. If the US does not raise its debt ceiling, it is very poor stewardship and tells our creditors we are bad risk. Legislators who say it is not poor stewardship are very much mistaken. Let’s pay our creditors, then have serious discussion around changes to increase revenue AND cut spending.

Lying and embellishing is not foreign to politicians. Yet, lying pretty much about everything is beyond the pale. George Santos, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis have achieved a greater level of deceitfulness than others. Santos has emulated the two older people and has created both a fake history and allegedly acted criminally. We deserve better than this. What he has not learned as well is how to be smug when called out on lying.

Vladimir Putin still wins the prize for untruthfulness. What has been difficult for him is the Ukraine invasion has gone so poorly for Russia, he cannot cover-up his lying. The word is getting out, sometimes within 24 hours that he was lying the day before. Ukraine is achieving success. So, it is hard to maintain a lie, when the evidence is shown in real time. The problem is coming clean will have to be a part of his exit strategy. He will need to say folks, this is not working, so we need to exit Ukraine.

Each of us lied about something in our lives. To say you have not is not being honest with yourself. One thing you must do is not believe your own BS. The first step in coming clean is to admit to yourself you lied or weren’t as truthful as you should have been. Here is a good example – having been in management and consulted with HR, everyone thinks they are a better than average employee. But, that is not possible. The only way to improve is to recognize your shortcomings.

This is one of the challenges for our former president as we often debate if he knows he lies as much as he does as he tells so many sometimes repeatedly. I am reminded of the CBS reporter who finally got tired of a routine misstatement about a law he said he passed and told him you know that law was passed before you became president? He did not know.

We need as much truth as possible from our elected officials. I try hard not to refer to many elected officials as “leaders” as just because they are in a position of leadership, does not make them a leader. Telling the truth will set them apart from the others and free them to walk down the better path.

Note to a wayward Republican Senator

Senator, I saw your comments condemning the process that found Donald Trump liable for sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll. While it is not a criminal trial verdict, he will have to make some sort of financial restitution to Ms. Carroll.

Your comments are unfortunate as they denigrate the efforts of a jury to hold the former president accountable. Not only has he confessed in his own words to other sexual assaults such as grabbing women by their private parts with impunity and his bent for walking in on partially clothed Miss Universe and Miss USA contestants because he sponsored the pageant, his company was found guilty of tax fraud last summer and he had to repay his foundation for using it for his personal reasons a few years ago.

Later this summer, he will likely be legitimately charged for election meddling in Georgia and he may be charged for seditious actions around the January 6 insurrection which endangered your life and that of others. If they were successful, you might not be around to receive this note.

As a former Republican and now independent voter, please refrain from commenting on a process that you have nothing to do with. Note, I would have considered voting for you in 2016 if you had won, if you conducted yourself like you used to. But, this version is not someone I could support.

Please help the GOP find its footing and hold the former president to account. It should not be lost on people that Fox News is out over $1 billion for gaslighting on behalf of the former president with $2.7 billion pending. People who lie for the former president do not fare very well.

Friday follies and foibles Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo. For a no-longer-drinker, have a Corona or margarita for me. Those days are long behind me, thank goodness. Just a few miscellaneous follies and foibles to start the celebration.

I saw where The Donald is considering testifying in his rape trial. The judge has given him until Sunday at 5 pm to decide. Oh, I hope he does. When your history is one of making things up, getting in front of a judge and jury is not the best action Trump could take. An attorney once said he got Trump to change thirty or so statements during one deposition to avoid perjury. One deposition – 30 or so lies.

Speaking of lawsuits, I am delighted to see Disney suing the autocratic governor of Florida for infringing on their business. The governor is picking on the largest tourism destination in a state run by sales tax revenue using them as a scapegoat for wokeness, which many cannot define. The term is used as a weapon like any name calling term, but at its heart it is good to be universally accepting and supportive of all people’s rights. To me, this is just one of the many infringements the governor and his party are imposing on people.

Between, DeSantis and his twin Greg Abbott in Texas, two of the largest states in the US are so poorly governed. Abbott does not get the national press DeSantis gets, but he makes a similar habit of not taking criticism well, saying derogatory things and infringing on the rights of those who do not look like our Europeans immigrants that came here.

There are imperfect people in the Democrat party, but I can argue policy with them or ask why they have not followed through on campaign promises? Trump created a bigger mess at the southern border than existed before he became president, but Joe Biden has not made things better. We need to hold him to what he said he would do, as we are not holding to our ideals as we make it very difficult to come here.

Finally, we need to deal with our debt problem, but not paying our bills is not the solution. It is the result. We need serious fact based discussion on a variety of solutions including raising revenue and cutting expenses. Grandstanding changes as the Republicans in the House have done is not the way to go about this. We should remind Republicans, they are not very good at solving our debt problem especially when in charge. Think George W. Bush cutting taxes to eliminate a surplus budget and Donald Trump cutting taxes to increase the debt by $2 trillion. Anyone can cut taxes, but we have to pay did things and watch spending both.

Wednesday walkabout early in May

What a great day for a walkabout. As I wander, here are a few thoughts I might take with me.

A general thought that I cannot seem to shake is it would be nice for legislators to focus on solving problems and getting something done, rather than grandstand.

To this purpose, it would be helpful if they took the time to study the issues we need to focus on and stop telling us what funders have paid them to do.

It is depressing how low the US Supreme Court has fallen. Not only has it become more political than before, it has added unethical behavior to the mix. Part of the reason is when the needed Senate votes dropped from 60 to 51 to approve someone. As a result, we have people on the court who are more strident in their views.

Stepping away from Washington, we have a more than the two most notorious governors in Florida and Texas who have decided leadership of all citizens is not what they are there for. They have also decided civil rights need not be evenly distributed or warranted. That is shameful in my view.

It would help if all of these folks noted above could spend a little more time with the truth and less time asking for and counting their money. We hear about the flood of people coming across the border, but the real crisis is we are purposefully bottlenecking folks from crossing. While the former president was awful as he created this mess, the current president has not followed through on improving the process.

Whether it is climate change, water, environment, debt, healthcare, et al, let’s focus on the truth and address these issues. And, stop exaggerating or contriving issues that are not that important, but designed to distract voters.

Now, that I have gotten that off my chest, I can finish my walk.

Thursday throw abouts

On yet another rainy April day, let me throw about a few thoughts this Thursday.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is taking steps to become more autocratic. Citizens who worship differently, are getting on the wrong side of his controlling nature as their civil rights are squeezed. With India soon becoming the most populous country in the world, this should add concern.

Modi’s steps are more dramatic than what is happening in Florida and Texas with their controlling governors. Yet, I did find it interesting that Disney Corporation has sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis for abusing his authority to control a corporation. As an outsider looking at my home state, Disney’s arguments have merit as DeSantis can’t seem to handle dissent or criticism very well. It should be noted that his fellow congress members are being none to kind as they remember DeSantis for the journalists.

Speaking of authoritarians, the former president had another bad hair day yesterday. A judge in one of his trials, the defamation one, told his attorneys that Trump’s calling the trial a sham in his communications is inappropriate asking Trump to stop the social media attacks and saying he may be exposing himself to further penance. Then, Jean Carroll took the stand and said she is only here because Donald Trump raped her. She will be cross examined, but this is not what the former president bargained for as she gets to tell her side of the story under oath.

Finally, why should people care what Boris Johnson has to say anymore? I saw his name at the top of some article I chose not to read. Why? He is no longer prime minister and he has never been too keen on truth telling. Adding kindred spirits Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, these three former elected officials need to sail off into the sunset and leave us alone. Maybe some billionaire, who unlike Trump is not cash poor, should offer to buy them lifetime room and board on some deserted island together with no contact to the outside world. That would make the world a safer, saner and sweeter place to live. Maybe he could put the name Trump up on the building to make the former president happy.

Harry Belafonte, a true hero and entertainer passes away

A true hero and entertainer has passed away – Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr, better known as Harry Belafonte. From a piece in Politico called “Harry Belafonte, activist and entertainer, dies at 96” here are a couple of paragraphs.

“Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer and became an activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has died. He was 96.

Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side, said Ken Sunshine, of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis.“

Belafonte is better known for his silky voice and big smile as he introduced the world to Calypso music with songs like “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line,” but he was far more than that. He was a hero to many, especially black and brown people and children as he advocated strongly for not just civil rights, but for survival rights.

His causes may have taken root in America with his friendship with Martin Luther King and involvement in the Freedom Summer education movement in Mississippi or various civil rights marches. He attracted other performers of all races to help calm the tensions of bigotry with their presence. But, he also was an ambassador abroad as he spoke out and participated in pushing back on Apartheid in South Africa and children’s rights issues in places like Zimbabwe.

With his music, time and energy, he increased awareness of the plight of black and brown people and all children around the world. He served in various ambassador roles for the ACLU and UNICEF focusing on children. He also broke racial barriers as he intermixed performers on his TV variety shows, which unsettled many sponsors back in the late 1960s. Some even pulled out, but the networks stood with him and aired the shows. In fact he co-hosted a show with Julie Andrews for one variety special, as pointed means to show we are in this together.

Belafonte was such a world-weary activist, he was well-admired by many from all races and countries. When he spoke, it benefitted folks to listen. He won many performance awards – Grammy’s, Tony’s and Emmy’s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, the awards that matter more are the Joan Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Kennedy Center Honor. These represented a key part of his life’s work, not just the entertainment.

The world has lost a hero. If you are not that familiar with him, take a look at his work, both entertainment and activism. May he Rest in Peace.

Legendary sportscaster Bob Costas about the former president – “it’s a cult”

In an article by Chris Rosvoglou on The Spun called “Sports World Reacts To What Bob Costas Said About Donald Trump, Fox News,” the views of legendary sports announcer Bob Costas were encapsulated from his appearance on CNN Primetime. Here is the gist in a couple of paragraphs from that piece, which can be accessed below.

“‘This is not a question of being conservative or being Republican. This is lunacy, they’ve descended into madness,’ Costas said. ‘People, whose only objective is their next appearance on Fox News, hold congressional seats and have sway within the party. They all live in fear of Trump. It’s a cult. It’s not a principle, it’s not a philosophy, it’s no longer a party so much as it is a cult.

‘Some of them are just bat-bleep crazy, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, but others are just so spineless and cowardly. And so, in fear of what turning on Trump and even acknowledging this madness would cause, that they bite their tongues, or they say things that they should know better or they don’t really believe in…and Fox News could have been a corrective to that if Fox News said, ‘We lean right, but this isn’t true. This is wrong.’ They not only made Trump their hero, but they vilified anyone who criticized him.’”

For those who do not know Costas, he is long time sportscaster who now has a show on HBO called “On the record with Bob Costas.” Like Bryant Gumbel, he has gravitas and veritas because he takes the time and diligence to do his homework and tell the story as accurately as possible. And, because of this, his shows included societal issues as they bleed into the sports industry ranging from the Me-Too movement, to the maltreatment of Black citizens, to performance enhancing drugs, to domestic violence, to opioid use to combat pain, to Chronic traumatic encephalopathy due head trauma, et al.

I agree with Costas’ assertions above 100%. It truly amazes me that people can continue to support someone who so obviously has a bent on untruthfulness, bullying, and denigration of others. Further, he has divided our country because of what his niece Mary said back in November, 2020 that her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election. And, he may be convicted of or forced to settle even more court cases around his efforts to overturn the election or incite and support sedition in an attack on the Capitol.

As Costas said, “it’s a cult.” I agree. Fox News just paid over $1 billion in two penalties for defamation with a third larger one pending, but still are too beholden to tell known untruths to keep the former president’s chances alive in 2024. His winning would be harmful to our country, yet that does not matter. That is cult-like behavior.