Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Few Good Apples

A Few Good Apples

When we are in danger, or desperately need assistance, we call the police.
Without an organization of well trained, abundantly equipped  and  disciplined officers, our communities would turn into Mad-Max chaos.
That’s why we have a police force. 
It’s no accident we call it a  FORCE.

We give each officer extraordinary  power, support, and authority in order to maintain safe conditions in our society. 
In return, we expect that the power and authority provided to each officer be used in a fair and judicious way…realizing and allowing that  mistakes could happen and mis-judgements could be made.

But  when an officer blatantly and deliberately abuses that vested authority, especially in a life-threatening way, a most serious crime has occurred.
Furthermore, when a police officer commits a felony that is covered-up by another police officer, duel felonies have been committed. 
It’s not professional courtesy, it’s complicity.
Yes, body-cameras might help, but the best remedy would be breeching the blue wall of silence.

February 27, 2011, Huntington Station, New York, around 1:10AM

Two  bar-hopping off-duty cops are driving in their  civilian  cars.
They cut off a cab and  get into a yelling match with the driver.
Both cops, and the cab driver get out of their cars. Realizing he’s outnumbered, the cabbie retreats to his cab.
One cop,  gun in hand, approaches the cab which is backing up. 
He empties his .38 caliber Smith and Wesson, hitting the cabbie twice before he ducks down.
The shooter proceeds to smash the cab driver’s window, starts beating the cabbie with the gun, and breaks  his nose.  
The cabbie backs up, turns, and drives to the hospital. 
The cop calls 911 for help.
Up to 20 police officers correctly race to the scene, fearing that a fellow officer was in dire trouble. The police call an ambulance for the two cops, and arrest the cabbie at the hospital where a blood test is ordered and  administered.
The results are negative.
The cop claims that his life was in danger.  
He says the cabbie was revving his engine in preparation to run him down.
The cab was a Prius…which doesn’t rev.
No blood test is ordered nor did fellow officers perform a sobriety test on the cop, who refused the doctor's request for blood and urine tests
The  medical staff enters notations that he smells of alcohol.  The attending physician’s  medical report states that patient is, "Slurring words at times with smell of alcohol on breath," and that he is sweating and had bloodshot eyes. The doctor’s report  refers  to him as,  "Hostile" and notes that his, "Psychiatric insight and judgment is impaired."
The shooter  later admits   to the district attorney  that  had up to ten drinks before the incident.
Internal affairs officers bring a pre-written statement to the hospital for the cabbie to sign. He has 2 bullets in his body and is on a morphine drip.  
His request for a lawyer is denied.
After being lied to that the statement clears him of responsibility, he signs it.

Where were all the good apples we hear about?

To read the full, ugly story, click below

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Triangle Trade

  No, not that one.
This is the Triangle Trade run by Speaker of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver.
The triangle was between a doctor, a law firm, and Silver’s bank accounts.
What a clever scheme. 
No wonder he was the speaker for the past 20 years.
Shelly landed himself a $120,000 per annum side job (a non-job, really) with a personal injury law firm.  The firm sought people with mesothelioma… a disease caused by asbestos…because the potential settlements were huge and the practice was awarded the customary 30%.  
It was a gold mine. They even ran TV solicitations for more afflicted clients.

Columbia University had a doctor and researcher who specialized in mesothelioma. People with the dreaded disease flocked to him.
Shelly did the math.
He worked out a special deal with the doctor.
The Doctor would refer his patients to the law firm in exchange for secretly funneled state grants.
The good doctor obliged and was happy.

The plan provided the firm with valuable clients and their lucrative civil suits.
The lawyers were happy.

The speaker received millions in commissions from the law firm, which made him happy.

And we haven’t even talked about the extortion, the tax evasion, or the real estate scams.

Mr. Silver faces many decades of prison time.
The prediction here is he’ll get somewhere between a token punishment or less. 

That 2 party club that calls itself New York State’s government likes to keep a hazy, soft-edge on political propriety, ethical regulations, and convenient escape hatches.
The citizens shouldn’t be happy.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Boxed In

Mom and pop are finished. 
The coliseums of capitalism did them out.
How could a small business with a modest inventory, 
and a few workers,  compete with  big-box,  
stand-alone,  mega-stores?
They can’t.

The   corner bookstore with the creaky wooden floor and the big cat who sat in the window, was run out of town by Borders, and Barnes and Noble.

The local hardware store bolted after being overtaken by Home Depot and Lowes.

The Main Street pharmacy was staggered by CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid.
(Duane Reade in urban- speak)

Stationery stores proved to be less than stationary after Office Depot and Staples reamed them out.

Pet stores are endangered by Pet Smart and PetCo.

Doctors'   practices are  going  abdomen-up as they  join Professional Medical Group Management Associations.
A Doc-in-a-bigger-box.

Maybe, in the end, we’ll just have one big box left.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Never Having To Say You’re Not Sorry

Recently, a college basketball player from Oklahoma State, the visiting team, chased a ball into the Texas Tech stands.
A fan screamed at him, “You’re a piece of crap.”
The player went after the fan until he was pulled off by teammates.
The next day, speaking from a podium, the player said, “I really do apologize for it. This is not how I conduct myself.”
The fan, speaking to the media said, “I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies…my actions last night …do not reflect myself….”

So, we have both men telling us that they are truly not the people who they apparently are.
Dissected, their apologies explain that they are sorry for the thing that they did, but it wasn’t really them who did it.

The comedian, Flip Wilson, had an explanation for such behavior.
Call it the apology-denial.
It’s  become   big business in America…our newest cottage industry.
Employed like   Houdini’s escape act, finalize any action with an apology, sprinkle on some denial, and expect the straightjacket to drop to the ground.

The drunks who massacre people on our highways, the public servants who get caught with pockets full of illegal cash, the politicians who can’t keep their ethics straight or their pants up (Yes… it’s always pants), the pious who practice things they'd never preach, all use it.

Of course, the ‘Sorrys’ always come after the headlines, never before.

Yes, I rammed a pencil into your eye, but, after all, I did say that if I hurt anyone by my action, I’m truly sorry.

Now the ball is in your court.
Be a patrician and accept it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Gods Must be Crazy

Dr Lehmann, an amazing man, was a recent guest speaker in class.
He   uses his medical and engineering skills to design and manufacture inexpensive and highly portable medical machines.
He developed an affordable home-use ultra-sound scanner the size of a flashlight that can remote an image to a medical center or hospital where the picture can be analyzed. 
After displaying and explaining other low-cost, small-size, medical innovations;  he started talking about another passion of his; Kenya.
He mentioned one  rural village that has no electricity, toilets, or local source of water.
The children have the job of walking about a mile to fetch water for their families.
Dr. Lehman took a trip with the barefoot children and noticed that they walked through human feces on the way to the well.
He showed a photo of the well that was a hole a few feet across and a few feet deep, with a dark puddle at the bottom.
He said, “Notice that the children are standing in the water.
This is the very water that the family will be drinking.”

There was an afterthought.
Didn’t these people ---although humble, poor, and uneducated--- have the good sense to not poison their own well?
Aren’t we all born with an innate sense to not allow waste to mix with our life-sustaining water?
How could the elders not instruct the children to carefully avoid stepping in the waste when going to the well, or, to somehow clean their feet before standing in the water?

Then, another afterthought.
Isn’t that exactly what we’re doing to our own precious water supply?
We pour insecticide and herbicides on our lawns.
We broadcast chemical fertilizer on to our greens to make them greener.
Our cesspools seep human waste down into our aquifer.
We flush unused antibiotics down our toilets.

With soiled feet, we stand in our own well.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More is Less    

America is not struggling through a recession.
A recession would be easy to reel in and gut.
Although the 24-hour evening news instructs us that economies periodically scrape along the bottom when the national tide is low, and hard times come and go like hurricanes, this is something different.
Our country is seriously ill, yet we whistle past the unemployment lines as if it were a bad cold that will pass.
Not this time.
The country is in denial about the fundamental malady.
Like an aging heartthrob, America is simply not the country it once was.
It’s an identity crisis that won’t be cured by leasing a red Porsche convertible and getting a razor-ribbon tattoo.
Sure, it’s still the global powerhouse, and has the weaponry to prove it.
It continues to be the big man on campus with wealth, influence, and a flock of cheerleaders.
But the abs… the six-pack… is gone.
Now it holds its stomach in while it inflates its sagging chest.
America has become  A-Rod;  still able to crush a ball, but, like him, much less frequently.
Our leaders remind us regularly that we’re the best, and we still believe it, but not with the self-assured conviction of the past.
We have become the English gentry who auction off the family heirlooms to maintain a fading lifestyle.
How did it happen?
The Bush tax cuts and wars-a-palooza?
Barney Frank’s quick-change artistry of converting the nearly homeless into new homeowners?
The bankers and brokers who engineered Sanskrit parlor tricks to harvest even more wealth for themselves?
The gasping unions who vigorously fought back against a diminishing supply of air?
The entitled 47 percent who were accused of sucking lady liberty’s teats dry?
The lobbyists who turned our congress into an escort service?
The corporations who gained  ‘Peoplehood’  but lost any residual interest in people?
Well, yes.

But the ones responsible for disemboweling the country were us, the folks.
We wanted more. More house with more closets, and more stuff to fill them.
The timid public service announcements to “Buy American” were meant for some patriotic suckers. Not us.
We fed our insatiable yearning for more,  and, to get more, we started bottom-feeding for the lowest price…a price that was founded from cheap foreign labor that was paid little, worked in unhealthy places with no medical benefits, or benefits of any kind.
Who could compete with that?
We fully bought into the addiction while we surrendered our jobs.
Americans could no longer make shirts, sneakers, or TVs that Americans would buy.
So, we closed up shop and went shopping for bargains.
The Faustian bargain trips to Sam’s Club put Uncle Sam in distress.
We now have more which leaves us with less.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

America's Barn Door

America has become the anguished farmer whose horses have bolted because he left the barn door open. A few examples:
As the nation focuses on the latest jangly shiny object (the Colorado massacre) our government temporarily shifts to its gun control Kabuki-Dance.
Even if an agreement is reached (it won’t be) we arrive rather late.
According to the Survey by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies the United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens.
That’s 270 million firearms in circulation.
The barn door was blown off the hinges.

Our illegal immigrant dilemma is equally late in coming.
Modest estimates of ‘Illegals’ in the country exceed 10 million.
The debate comes about 9+ million too late.
Nobody bothered to lock the barn door.

Even liberals making Conservative estimates put the national debt at $16 trillion. Seems like only yesterday when the wee debt was  running around in Oshkosh-by-Gosh.
My, they grow up so quickly.
Now we can’t afford a barn door.

Moving on to the infrastructure… The American Society of Civil Engineer’s Report Card for American Infrastructure gave the nation a grade of D, and stated that it would take a five-year investment of $2.2 trillion to bring the U.S. up to par with the rest of the world’s major postindustrial nations. This assessment of our dams, levees, bridges, rail, and airports declares that our infrastructure is in crisis.
Our barn door is rotted.

And those who can read, learn that American schools have a drop-out rate of 28%. And the students who stick it out compare poorly with many industrialized nations.
Where we once sat atop the heap, we’re now buried in the middle of our class. Where was the concern when we dropped to second place?
Anybody know how to build a door?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Any Kid in the City

THE FOLLOWING PIECE WAS WRITTEN BY A GUEST WRITER, A FORMER STUDENT AT NORWOOD SCHOOL, AND A FRIEND.                                                                

The students enter the building through a side door, where they promptly submit backpacks and any other personal items to the NYPD safety agent who greets them at the steps.  There’s a male agent for the boys, a female for the girls.  Everyone is scanned for weapons, cell phones and drugs upon entering the building.  Some of the more committed students have already hidden items inside a shoe, their underwear, perhaps the lining of a wig.  The rest have scattered belongings in various spots throughout the neighborhood.  It’s Monday morning at one of New York City’s Level Five, year long suspension sites.  I teach English here.       I used to remark to friends and relatives that I would gladly teach any kid in the city.  Oh, really?  When I made this statement, I was already working at a large traditional high school in New York.  We had sports teams.  We had a band.  We sang carols to the kids before the holidays.  I signed yearbooks and hugged parents at graduation. Then mayoral control hit our building like an angry, little hurricane, declaring the school dangerous, and sweeping us all away. So how do I describe this strange, new teaching universe I’ve recently entered?  For starters, it’s the greatest lesson on human dignity I’ve ever had.        My new school has a unique and troubled population, but they still have the right to a public education. They earn credits at this suspension site.  They take their state exams here.  We study the speech patterns and motivations of Holden Caulfield, the original troubled New York teen, like we would at any other school in the city.        Yet the drama unfolding in their respective neighborhood often takes precedent over any literature we explore in the classroom.  Whenever a friend or acquaintance suffers a fatality, someone will wear a t-shirt with the departed’s face staring back at me all day long, rendering the book in my hand useless.  If someone needs a pen and I offer one with blue ink, he might not use it.  Some students comprise entire paragraphs without using the letter ‘C’.  Others shun ‘B’ as if the consonant has done them wrong.  Symbols are everywhere and the neighborhood is all that matters.  They resent being here, a completely foreign place, and pine for their home school all year long.  They argue and compete over things I don’t understand. They make remarks in the middle of a lesson that sometimes shake me to the core. So as the student body files into the building kid by kid, and the scanner hums and beeps over every single pocket and curve, I have to find a part of me somewhere that understands the magnitude of being their teacher.           At sixteen, I went to work washing dishes in a Long Island restaurant where my mother waited tables.  The owner, who would later become the county’s district attorney, ruled his establishment in a strict, Steinbrenner-like dictatorship.  It was his place, his rules.  I was observed wearing cut-offs during an unofficial kitchen tour and reprimanded for it.  Minutes later, I committed the error of making eye contact and the tirade began.  I answered back and promptly lost my first job.  As the owner marched me through the kitchen and out a back door, he made a remark that stayed with me forever, invaluable words that I would summon repeatedly during an extremely challenging teaching career in New York City.  “You just wait,” he began.  “We’ll see what becomes of you!”       It was during my student-teaching experience that I encountered my first unruly student.  The kid showed up late, talked incessantly, and pushed all of his assignments onto the floor.  Still a student myself, I was completely flustered and dumbfounded.  As I bent to retrieve the work he’d dropped, it struck me how easy it was to slip into the role of the District Attorney from my dish washing days.  “You just wait,” I thought.  “We’ll see what become of you.”        That summer I pulled into a convenience store and there he was, half asleep against the wall, a can of malt liquor the approximate size of his forearm beside him.  He was wasted and bleary eyed, but recognized me and said hello.  I recalled the prediction I’d made about his future when he was my student and how I couldn’t wait for it to come true.  I sat in my car afterwards and watched him nod off again, my cheeks completely flushed with shame.       So perhaps it’s time to recognize that intelligence appears in various forms.  Not everyone has to love Salinger as I do.  Maybe Holden’s language is getting a bit dated by now and Jay-Z probably lives in the Caulfield’s gorgeous apartment overlooking Central Park.  And when a boy in my class becomes so immersed in the imagery of his time spent at Rikers, the only way to respond is to lay down the books and just listen:        “Mister, in the showers…everyone wears boxers.  And if the soap does drop, you jus’ say, ‘Fuck it,’ and leave it there.”               Important Facts to Remember: (1) There is always plenty of soap to go around at Rikers. (2) The section resigned for minors segregates itself according to race and gang affiliation just like the adults.  (3) If another boy selects you to fight, you cannot ask the C.O. for protection because he’s probably busy securing a back room for the fight to occur.  (4) You cannot back down from confrontation in any way or be dubbed a punk, which may lead to unspeakable teenage horrors that may or may not have something to do with Important Fact #1. (5) If you hope to last as a teacher in a year long suspension site in NYC, the lesson of the day does not always come from you.       Most people though, Americans in particular, have programmed themselves through cinema and sport into honoring the art of a good comeback.  Thankfully, even the New York City Department of Education believes in redemption, permitting students to apply for early dismissal from their suspension if they qualify.  Much like anything else worthwhile, it does comes with an interesting catch to it.  The students must write an essay.  Not only do they have to include every letter of the alphabet, they must also apologize to their school for what they did.  Interestingly enough, every student I’ve ever worked with on an Early Review Essay is completely innocent of any and all charges against him.      “But Mister, I didn’t do it.  It wasn’t even me.  That other kid was lyin’…and my school jus’ don’t like me.”       “Would you like to get out of here early?”       “Yeah.”       “Then you need to redo this first paragraph and apologize…with feeling.”         By the end of the week, E. approaches after class to say goodbye.  Today is his last day.  He’s served his full suspension and will return to his home school next week with a proverbial clean slate.  His regular building is five stories tall with a river view of the midtown skyline.  Our place is a single hallway with very small class sizes.  In twenty-four hours the kid’s world will expand tenfold.   E. makes his way through the building, an actual glimmer to his eyes, shaking hands and saying his goodbyes.  As he takes his final strut down the hall, I can feel the entire school holding its breath and rooting for him.  The mission statement here is really no different than any other school in the world.  As time passes, as it does for us all, we will eventually see what becomes of him. 

JB McGeever teaches writing and literature in New York City Public Schools.  His stories and essays have appeared in Newsday, The New York Times, City Limits, Hampton Shorts, and Thomas Beller's Lost and Found: Stories from New York.