Sunday, August 30, 2015

We Need a Leader to Unite Us, Not Divide

We have come to a terrible impasse in our country. Some would say it's been simmering for 150 years and some might look at all this as a new evolution of the protests and violence of the 1960s which has just now reached a new boiling point.  I don't know about that.  I'm neither a sociologist nor an historian, but it's clear even to me that tensions in this country have reached a new level of ugly since 2008.

If you go back to 2009 when Barack Obama called out law enforcement in Cambridge, Massachusetts who "acted stupidly," he said, in arresting Henry Gates for disorderly conduct, you can find the beginning of the current President of the United States involving himself in state matters and commenting on issues about which he should have just been quiet.  That was a local matter and he had no cause to comment on it.  The charges against Gates were dropped and the whole thing would have sorted out without Obama's injection of race into the conversation. But he commented, thus lighting the fuse of racial tension.

Then we get  to Trayvon Martin in 2012 where Obama famously said "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."  That created controversy that went on for weeks.

In 2014, on the death of Michael Brown, who you may recall robbed a store, accosted the clerk, and tried to take a police officer's gun while leaning into his patrol car, Obama said, "Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement -- guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness." Nothing about the fact that Brown robbed a business and then hit a police officer who was trying to question him.

And then we have the Eric Garner case, where Obama again weighs in and says the mistrust between law enforcement and the black community "is an issue that we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. And I'm not interested in talk; I'm interested in action."  What kind of action?  Obama said he wanted more "accountability" between communities and law enforcement because he's seen too many people that don't believe they are being treated fairly.

By now, you see, we are so accustomed to the president weighing in on local law enforcement issues that we almost expect it.  People are clamoring for him to comment on the rash of law enforcement murders that have erupted in recent weeks.  Here in Louisiana we have lost three law enforcement officers in as many weeks. Next door, in Texas, we lost one this weekend.  What does Obama have to say about all of this action?

Why hasn't he said anything to tamper down the #blacklivesmatter group who has called for the killing of white people and police officers?  Why is this not hate speech?

Some would say that the national rhetoric has contributed to the impetus of all this lawlessness.

It's true that if we can't blame the gun for killing someone but instead must blame the crazy person pulling the trigger, we also can't blame Obama for the epidemic of dead police officers. We can't blame Obama for the murder of two white reporters by a hate-filled black man who wanted  a race war. He didn't pull the trigger.

But did he light the fuse?

What we have unfolding in our country right now is terrifying. What we need is a sober, God-fearing, honest leader to come forward, instill calm, and call for an end to the hate speech -- to bring us together rather than to divide.  We need a leader who would suggest that we work together to solve our problems rather than point out perceived injustice.  We need someone who places value on human life.  All life.  White life, black life, unborn life, life regardless of your occupation, race, or income.  It all matters.

Obama had no business wading into the Gates controversy in 2009, but he did.  And now that he's all in, up to his neck, he needs to put the fires out. If we have to wait for a more competent leader to do it in 2016, how many more lives will be lost?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Eat Local! A W's Steakhouse Review

A review.

Last night Steve and I branched out to a new restaurant: we are creatures of habit and usually stick to two or three restaurants that we really like when we eat out.  We avoid chains and franchises when we can with the exception of Texas Roadhouse which we like.

We live within sniffing distance of W's Steakhouse on E. Kings Highway and the smell of charbroiled steaks has beckoned long enough so we gave it a try last night.  Fabulous!

Any longtime Shreveport resident knows the building -- the beautiful, art-deco building next door to George's Grill.  I ate many an order of Snapper a la Brocato in that building -- the tender, flaky red snapper smothered in a rich cream sauce with shrimp, oysters, and crabmeat and served in a parchment bag.  I had many an order of crab claws and made many trips to the salad bar in that building for "Wop Salad" and that home made bean soup.  Oh, how I miss Brocato's.

So, returning to the building for a fine meal last night was fun, and we weren't disappointed.  The
Old Brocato's Menu
owners have taken care to preserve the karma and atmosphere of Brocato's while dressing it up just a little in modern clothes. We ate in the restaurant side last night, but upon leaving, we looked into the bar area and that looks more my style for next time. The bar side still has the exposed brick walls that I remember from Brocato's and a sort of 1960s vibe.

We both had the 12 oz ribeye; I had the famous augratin potatoes while Steve went with the veggies.  Both of us had the wedge salad with blue cheese crumbles.  The steaks were perfectly seasoned and cooked as ordered.  The augratin potatoes can't be beat anywhere -- except maybe by The Cub which is where I first had them.  They are not your typical augratins: it's a secret recipe with maybe some pepperjack, and a richer, creamier sauce than I've ever had anywhere.  Divine.

The service was great -- not overpowering and not absent.  Our server visited with us and told us she had served at Don's and at Sansone's and that made me happy because I loved those local places, too.

And so that's the point, really, which is how important it is to support local eateries. East Kings used to be one long strip of classic local dining; from Sansone's to Murrell's, from Brocato's to George's Grill, from Cobb's BBQ to Strawn's to Don's, one right after the other.  All local. Mostly gone, now.

W's might be a little pricey for some, but our steaks came with salad and side, and they give a 10%
discount for active and retired military and law enforcement (even though their Facebook page said 20%, most service members are grateful for any discount at all!)

We loved our experience at W's last night and will return. As you are driving along Youree Drive and looking at one chain restaurant after another with one vacuum packed processed meal after another in their freezers, ready to microwave or slap in the broiler on the way to your table, remember your local eateries and support them. The Anvil on Line Avenue, next to Superior, is excellent; The Blind Tiger downtown, excellent. We still have George's Grill and Strawn's.  And there are several local Mexican places, of course -- Nicky's is our favorite.

Thanks W's Steakhouse for reminding us the importance of supporting local endeavors and thanks for an excellent dining experience!

Eat local!

W's Steakhouse
189 East Kings Highway
Shreveport, LA 71104
Phone: 318-861-1571

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What is the Appeal of Donald Trump?

I've got a post coming up at DaTechGuy on Monday afternoon about Donald Trump in which I recount parts of a conversation we had last night with friends about Trump's candidacy. Like a lot of other voters, apparently, my friend is all in for Trump and really likes what Trump says.

You can read about that over there, but I'm going to put in my two cents about Trump here.

Sure, Trump is saying the right things (sort of, sometimes) because he's a pandering entertainer. A reality TV star. He might be a businessman, but part of that business is entertainment. He's not a conservative and I personally don't think he's serious about being president. I believe he's in there to get publicity, to agitate, to get attention, and maybe to get the candidates talking about the right issues, although I might be giving him too much credit there.

Victor Davis Hanson nails exactly why Trump is at the top of the polls:

Trump preps little. He has no real agenda. And he makes stuff up as he goes along. For such a New York brawler, he has thin skin, smearing his critics, often in creepy fashion. How can a former Democrat, once a pro-choice, pro-amnesty liberal and a supporter of single-payer health care, remain the godhead of the conservative base for weeks on end?  
The answer is that Trump is a catharsis for 15 percent to 20 percent of the Republican electorate. They apparently like the broken china shop and appreciate the raging bull who runs amok in it. Politicians and the media are seen as corrupt and hypocritical, and the nihilistic Trump is a surrogate way of letting them take some heat for a change.

Trump has reversed himself on nearly every single conservative issue.

I've been stunned at the number of presumably intelligent people who have voiced support for him. When I suggested to my friend last night that perhaps Ted Cruz would be a better candidate, he shut me down and said he'd already made up his mind for Trump.

Well, then.

Even The Washington Post, is befuddled:

Trump has supported universal health care, was once an abortion rights advocate (who has since evolved), has a record of donating to Democrats, and is (was?) friends with the Clintons. Plus, he's said this: "I probably identify more as Democrat," Trump told CNN in 2004. But for reasons we're still analyzing (here and here and here), Trump is the conservative darling of the 2016 presidential race at the moment.

It's also important to realize, I think, that while people like Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh might support Trump's right to speak out and confront these controversial issues, they may not necessarily support Trump as president.  The distinction is a large one.

And so, it's important for people like my friend last night, and others on the Trump bandwagon, to fully research the issues and the candidates, not just what they are saying today.  My fear is that we have too many voters who won't make the effort and will simply settle for a reality TV presidency.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

It's Time to Take Responsibility: #AllLivesMatter

Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Several hundred people, including activists and religious leaders, gathered on Canfield Drive and observed four and a half minutes of silence before marching to a local church.

Since the Michael Brown incident, there have been other incidents of what activists are calling a war on black lives by white police officers. From Eric Garner to Sandra Bland to Christian Taylor, it seems this is all we are talking about.  Social media is exploding with rants, hashtags, and protests that #blacklivesmatter.

And then Cecil the Lion gets killed, and #lionslivesmatter.

Don't #alllivesmatter?  That's what they taught me in Sunday school when I was a little kid. Every Sunday at the Episcopal church we sat at little tables and colored pictures of Jesus with lambs, his outstretched hand beckoning the flock. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight..." we sang in unison, happy smiles on our faces.

When in the world did we become so fractured, again?   Never in my life have I been so aware of racial tensions throughout the country, and I lived through the '60s.

In 2009, we had the President of the United States standing up on television asserting his personal view that "there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

Now, we can get into statistics and studies and evaluate the bias, or lack of bias, of whomever conducted said studies, and we can argue about that all day long. But it seems to me that if you're breaking a law, any law, then you may have to answer to that at some point.  Bottom line.

Just stick to Michael Brown for a moment. If he hadn't walked into the store, assaulted the owner, and stolen some cigarillos, Darren Wilson would never have confronted him.

Did Brown deserve to die for stealing cigarillos?

No, of course not.

Did he deserve to die for leaning into Wilson's car and assaulting him?  Well, no, but you up the danger-stakes somewhat when you assault an officer.  Brown made some pretty bad choices there.

The New Yorker has a long profile of Darren Wilson and the incident in Ferguson that day. Both Wilson and his wife have left the police force and can no longer work in law enforcement because they are considered a liability -- too dangerous. They live in hiding behind sunglasses and security cameras. Wilson has been cleared of any wrongdoing but now is facing a civil suit by Brown's parents. All of these people feel all this "resentment" and anger toward Wilson who, to be honest, was just doing his job. When we look at the actual facts and put aside the emotion of the case, it's not hard to see that. Yes, it was tragic, of course.

But, my point isn't to retry Darren Wilson or what happened that day; let's look at the Sandra Bland case. Why are the police being blamed for her death? She refused to comply with a reasonable order, was confrontational and uncooperative every step of the way, and then took her own life.  But we're going to demonize the police for that all over social media.

My family was on the receiving end last fall of police error, as you may remember if you've been around a while. A neighbor heard kids screaming, thought some woman was being abused, called the cops, and they stormed through my front door with weapons drawn and demanded to know where the screaming was coming from. It was terrifying. And yes, it made us furious. But it was all a mistake. We still have some bitterness about it because the department covered their guy and admitted to no wrongdoing whatsoever, but it's all in the past and as a retired police officer himself, my husband realizes that things happen. It's a very stressful job and certainly a thankless one.

As I reflect back over the past year, and the explosion on social media demonizing police, I personally feel the need to step back from that.

Just this week, here in Shreveport, we lost a bright, young police officer who was shot in the head and killed by a cold-hearted criminal who was already wanted for attempted murder. Officer Thomas LeValley answered a domestic call and was killed for it. They are burying him today.

And yet the drum-beat of anti-police rhetoric continues. Even here in Shreveport, some don't even have the decency to hush until after this boy is buried.

As a nation, we have to stop this. We have to pull together and we have to, absolutely have to, stop letting the Louis Farrakans, the Jesse Jacksons, and the other race whores drive division between us. Do I blame Obama for all this?  No, not directly, but do I think he has set race relations back fifty years?  You bet I do.  Social media hasn't helped, but Obama has been far, far from a peacemaker on this.

It's time for us all to take responsibility for our own actions, put morals and integrity back on the table, teach our children respect for authority and laws, and quit giving a pass to criminals because they've had a hard life.

All. Lives. Matter.

Writers Write

My book is done.

At least, it's done for now. I have submitted it to a publisher that I've been corresponding with about it, and it's a waiting game now. They may either reject it or send it on for further review. In the meantime, I wait.

I'm sort of encouraged -- I've had a couple of folks read it and the feedback has been extremely positive.  But, the standards at an academic press are pretty high and so I'm nervous.

So we wait.

In the meantime, writers write, and so hopefully I'll pick up my blog again. In the past several days since I sent the manuscript off I have found myself with all this time on my hands. What in the world did I do before I spent all day at my desk writing a book?  Oh yes, I taught school and I blogged.

So, here I am.