NOMOROBO AGAIN AND THE FILTERS OF LIFE

FILTER | THE DAILY POST


In the course of disconnecting, then reconnecting our telephone service, Charter also removed all of the settings and filters I had put on my phone. Everything from voice mail to blocking anonymous calls was wiped out. Including NOMOROBO, the add-on that makes having a telephone bearable in a world full of electronic phone calls from people I don’t know, for things I don’t want, for surveys I would never answer. Pitiful pleas for donations to “charities” that don’t exist. Bill collections for people who used to live here and are forever embedded in some calling service’s memory bank.

Without NOMOROBO, the phone rings several times every morning. Early. Always a robotic auto-dialer — no one who knows us would call before noon or minimally, eleven.

I spent several of today’s early hours trying to figure out how to reset my phone to the way it was. Trying to find the settings to stop the telephone from loudly announcing the ‘THIS CALL IS UNAVAILABLE” and mangling even the most ordinary words you’d think it impossible to mess up. I was not going to get any more sleep anyway because the phone was ringing off the damned hook.

Life is hard without filters. Harder for everyone than it ought to be.

Filters keep us on track. Filters on the phone get rid of junk callers and scammers. Filters on email eliminate spam. Filters on this blog keep the trolls from getting through our virtual gate. Our personal filters — the things we won’t say because it’s “not nice” or which we will deeply regret having said — and for which, apologizing is never enough because you can’t erase the memories or destruction left in the wake of a mouth gone rogue.

People complain about filters. They call it the “PC” police. They resent not being able to just say whatever awful stuff comes into their head, no matter who it insults, hurts, belittles.  If you feel this way, you are probably a bigot and a racist, whether or not you know it.  I applaud filters and refer to them as “good manners” and “civility.” They grease the squeaky wheels of society and make it possible for us to live in relative peace and harmony.

Today, we see how one too-powerful man with an unfiltered mouth can do an almost unlimited amount of damage. One man with neither manners nor civility — no filters — can cause life-threatening harm to millions of people. Did he grow up in a barn? Did no one teach him to say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me”?

He is ugly, cruel, and full of rage. It makes me speculate as to the kind of relationship he had with his parents. Did no one ever give him a hug and tell him he was a good boy? Was his childhood as loveless as the barren, mean-spirited, narcissist who rants daily on our television screens and all over the Internet?

Last night on the Daily Show, Laurence Fishburne, currently playing Mandela – Mandiba, on BET-TV, referred to our current White House occupant simply as “45.” Garry and I immediately realized Mr. Fishburne had given us the answer to a problem with which we have been wrestling. We can’t bear to say his name, but “45” is a tidy, neutral way to identify to whom we are referring without having that name pass our lips. Speaking the name requires excessive oral cleansing to remove that icky taste. Yuk.

I think people who play bridge are going to have a problem. Just saying.

BORN A CRIME – TREVOR NOAH

I don’t review a lot of books anymore, but this one got to me. There are lots of books written by people — including me — who had a hard time growing up. Abusive parents, poverty, oppression. War. There is a lot of awful stuff children endure.

Trevor Noah endured all of it. Name something bad that a kid can experience and it probably happened to him. Born under apartheid, his existence was illegal. His birth was, as the title of his book suggests, a crime.

born-a-crime-coverAs the child of a white father and a black mother under South Africa during apartheid, if he had been noticed by the authorities, they would have taken him from his family and put him … somewhere. So merely surviving until the end of apartheid was no mean feat. Add to that extreme poverty, violence and life under the most oppressive, racist regime you can imagine. Actually, you may not be able to imagine it. I knew it was bad, but South Africa refined oppression into an art form.

One of the other noteworthy things about this book was that I learned great deal about things I thought I already knew. I don’t know if Noah intended it as a cautionary tale, but it is. Chilling.

I didn’t read the book. I listened to the audiobook because Noah reads it himself. He has a beautiful, melodic voice and a lovely cadence. It was a treat for my ears and my brain.

You might think with all of this terrible stuff — and some of it is really horrific — that this would be an angry, possibly embittered man. But he isn’t.

He’s funny when humor is possible. Even when he’s serious, there is grace and wit —  plus a sweetness and generosity of spirit that’s rather uplifting. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book. It’s not a word I use lightly. Trevor Noah is a rare person, able to appreciate the good stuff in his life and not obsess over the considerable amount of injustice he has experienced.

I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs or autobiographies, but this is exceptional. If you have the patience, listen to it as an audiobook. Otherwise, consider reading it. He’s a smart guy, a good writer, and an astute observer of humanity, government, politics, and relationships. Insightful, witty, and entertaining, I highly recommend it.

Amazon has all the various formats and probably so do other online booksellers and maybe your local bookstore, too — if you are lucky enough to have one.

JACKIE ROBINSON – AMERICAN LEGEND

BY GARRY AND MARILYN ARMSTRONG

For more than a week, we’ve been watching (again) Ken Burns’ wonderful documentary series: “Baseball.” It brought back so many memories. With so much social and cultural division and hatred in our country, we need more baseball. At one point in the documentary, a Dominican play says “We’ve never fought a war or had an insurrection during baseball season.” We need to remember battles fought and lives sacrificed to reach this day. It should not be in vain. Let us at the very least, treat each other with respect and fairness.

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We meant to see 42 in the movies, but it got away from us. By the time we were ready to see it, it was gone. That turned out to be fine, because I bought the movie and we had a private screening. Time for baseball and history. Not only baseball. Not only history.

The integration of sports is taken so much for granted today, younger generations can’t imagine it being any other way. This is the movie that shows how it happened. It’s a movie about many things. It’s the story of how and why Jackie Robinson became the first non-white player in Major League Baseball. How this was the start of the integration of all professional sports. It was the beginning of modern baseball as well as the first significant move toward integration in the United States since the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

That it was our original home town team, the Brooklyn Dodgers who did it makes the story personal for us. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, decided it was time to make a difference. Because he could, he changed the world. Harrison Ford as Mr. Rickey mumbles. He’s also real, touching, human. He actually made me cry. Harrison Ford is not known for nuanced performances, but he gives one in this movie.

42-logoI commented that Harrison used to be President, not to mention Indiana Jones. Garry pointed out that owning the Dodgers was far more important. I agreed. Because Garry and I agree: there’s nothing more important than baseball. Especially right now.

Chadwick Boseman bears a strong physical resemblance to Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t sound like him, but that’s quibbling. Nicole Beharie is a pretty good likeness of Rachel Isum Robinson. Who, as Garry pointed out, is even today, one fine-looking woman. It was no accident Rickey chose a good-looking couple. He knew what they would be up against and it would be hard enough. Any small advantage they could gain by just being attractive … well, they were going to need it.

It’s impossible for those brought up after the Civil Rights Amendment to understand the intensity of the hatred, anger and rage that bringing a Black man into baseball caused.

It was 1947, the year I was born. The big war in Europe was over and returning Black soldiers were appalled and enraged that fighting for their nation had done nothing to alleviate the oppression of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was not merely as bad as it had been. It was worse.

Moreover, returning Black soldiers made racists throughout America nervous that their position of supremacy was being threatened. They apparently still feel that way, 70 years later.

It would take 17 more years before the civil rights amendment passed and at least two decades more to make it stick. Twenty-five more years to get a Black President into office. Who knows if we will ever stop hating people because are different color. Race — and the judgments we make based on skin color — are so ingrained, so automatic. So very American. More than apple pie or the flag, we the people love to hate. It’s the most universal of all behaviors. Not as we prefer to advertise, our ability to love, but our willingness to hate. Hate is easier, effortless.

Chadwick Boseman not only looks like Jackie Robinson. He has his swing. I assume they taught him the swing, but they did it well and got that gritty baseball “feel” into the movie. Everyone plays their part with authenticity, as those of us old enough to remember the real guys can attest. Maybe that’s the problem with many of the critics: they never saw the real guys, met them, cheered for them. Lived and died with them through the long season of baseball. They don’t remember, but we do.

The cinematography is great, moving smoothly and naturally between wide and close shots to give you the feeling of the game and more. Nice, tight segues. What is even better captured is the intensity of the abuse Robinson was forced to put up with, to swallow without complaint while simultaneously playing at the top of his game. I’d like to see any modern player survive this.

In many ways, Robinson didn’t survive it. He lived through it, but it killed him from the inside. He blasted open the door of the future and it cost him dearly.

jackie_robinson_brooklyn_dodgers_1954-resizedWhy did Rickey do it? There was a strong moral component. Rickey believed it was the right thing to do. The right thing to for baseball. But it was also a sound business decision. There was a huge pool of talent out there in the Negro Leagues. The Dodgers needed all the help they could get. By bringing in first Jackie Robinson while planning to bring up more Black players, Rickey figured he was going to do some serious winning. He was right.

Christopher Meloni, ex of Law and Order: SVU, nails Leo Durocher, the crazy, quirky Brooklyn Dodger’s manager. He actually looks like Durocher.

If you love baseball, see it. Even if you don’t love baseball, see it anyway. See it for the history, to remember how hard the battle for equal rights was, is and will continue to be. How much baseball, the American pastime, has always been at the center of the American experience.

And finally see it because it’s the story of a genuine red-blooded American hero. In every sense of the word.

From Garry Armstrong:

I have to admit I was tearing up in places even though there’s no cryin’ in baseball. Critics aside, this was no pleasant Hollywood fable but a fairly authentic account of Jackie Robinson, the man and the player and the times that swirled around him.

Much of this is first-hand recall for me. I was 5 years old and already a budding baseball fan in Brooklyn in 1947 when the young player wearing number 42 became a household name. I remember all the excitement in my neighborhood. Some of it I understood. Some of it I didn’t. The newspapers and radio were full of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson and how what they were doing would perhaps cause problems all across the country.

I remember angry things shouted by White people we encountered. I recall some very nice comments offered by White people who frequently said Jackie Robinson was “a credit to your people.”

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Jackie Robinson steals home in the 1955 World Series

I followed the Dodgers very closely over the years. I knew their lineup by heart, could emulate their swings and could recite from memory details of their personal lives along with the baseball stuff. In later years, I’d have the good fortune to meet many of the Boys of Summer including Peewee, Campy, Big Newk, Ralphie Branca, Gil Hodges, The Duke (My hero) and Jackie Robinson.

Later, as a reporter, they gave me their own first hand accounts of what it was like – that memorable year of 1947. I would also hear from Red Barber, the legendary sportscaster who called almost all of the games during the ’47 season for the Dodgers. One poignant memory involves a conversation with Campy (Roy Campanella) and Jackie Robinson. I was now a young reporter and a familiar face to many of the aging Dodgers. Campy was always “the diplomat”, pleasant and smiling.

Jackie always seemed angry. I thought he was mad at me sometimes until Campy said he was just “Jackie being Jackie”. The conversation was about how young Black people conduct themselves. Jackie thought many were irresponsible. Campy said they were just kids doing what kids do. Jackie glared at Campy and then smiled at me saying. “You get it, don’t you?” I just nodded.

Sorry I strayed from the movie but it evoked so many, many memories. And, thanks Harrison Ford, for a splendid portrayal of Branch Rickey!

STANDING WITH STANDING ROCK

You’d think, after all these years, as a nation we’d have grown enough to treat the Native people with respect. But you’d be wrong. We haven’t grown at all.

Rumpydog

Friday I went on a hike where I learned about the Trail of Tears. How white people forced the Cherokee to give up their lands and walk from Georgia to Arkansas and eventually to Oklahoma. How whites kept pushing the Cherokee out of their way for years, and how the Cherokee fought for the right to remain on their lands all the way to the US Supreme Court, who ruled in their favor, but President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the court ruling.

ictotmapnps There were several routes taken by the Cherokee to Arkansas and eventually Oklahoma. Those forced to walk the northern route (dotted line) went through downtown Nashville. 

I learned that gold was found on Cherokee land in Georgia. White people wanted that gold, so the US army forced Cherokee people from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, held them in interment camps for months…

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IS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS STIFLING YOU?

If you think being “politically correct” is ruining your ability to communicate, you’ve got other unaddressed issues … like …. maybe you’re a bigot. If you can’t express yourself without insulting individuals or groups, your problem isn’t political correctness. It goes a lot deeper than that.


Political Correctness is the avoidance of forms of expression or action that exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Simply put, it means treading carefully, gently — and preferably not at all — on other people’s sensibilities and sensitivities. It’s the “golden rule,” sometimes called the ethic of reciprocity: Don’t do something to anyone else that which you wouldn’t want done to youIt’s a fundamental principle of human interaction, the bottom line of being a decent person.

I’m for political correctness. Especially with Orange Head running for president. “Being P.C.” means controlling your mouth. It means not spewing insults at minorities, ethnic, or religious groups, disabled people, disenfranchised, or downtrodden people, or anyone who just happens to be different from you.

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Bigotry isn’t okay — whether it’s put straight out there, or presented thinly disguised as humor. We all used to know this. We were taught — most of us — to be polite and careful about not hurting other people’s feelings. We were brought up to not insult others. Not by accident and definitely not on purpose. We all should know this without being reminded … but with You-Know-Who setting a really horrible example, a lot of people are getting a very warped idea of what’s okay. Trump not only doesn’t care who or what he offends, he goes out of his way to make people feel bad. To shame and humiliate people, with a strong emphasis on women. To make those who are already suffering feel worse. He’s a demagogue, a schoolyard bully writ larger and uglier than ever.

What a guy. Just what we need to lead this great land.

So, for the socially challenged, the simple rule is: “IF YOU THINK IT’S OFFENSIVE, DON’T SAY IT.” As a rule, this works better than any amount of sensitivity training. Especially since so many people seem to have no sensitivity to train.

Offensive is what it seems to be, even when whoever said it insists he or she “didn’t mean it”

“Hey, folks, I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?” It’s the classic bully’s line. Of course he meant it. Bullies always mean it, but being a bully, he or she counts on you to avoid a confrontation.

It’s time to confront the bullies. Time to tell them they aren’t funny and we aren’t laughing. Bigotry, racism, and cruelty are not funny. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about civility. Kindness. Good manners. Decency. Fairness.

Standing up for what’s right even when it’s inconvenient.

It’s what has really made America great.

THE POWER OF WORDS by ELLIN CURLEY

I just read several articles about the recent outpouring of anti-Semitic vitriol on Twitter from Trump supporters and white “nationalists.”

I am Jewish. My parents were both born in the U.S., but my grandparents were born in Russia or the Ukraine. I grew up on stories from my maternal grandmother about living in a Shtetl, where murderous, anti-Semitic rampages by the Cossacks were commonplace. Jews were not allowed to socialize freely with the gentile population, let alone intermarry. My great-grandfather was a respected Rabbi and one of the rare Jews who was allowed to do business with the Gentiles in the big town of Minsk.

racist-signs-and-protestersIn addition to these stories, I heard a lot about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe as the Nazis came to power. As a child, I used to think about what I would take with me if that ‘knock on the door’ came one night to take me away from my home and my life. I often wondered if I would be the kind of person in a Concentration Camp who shared my bread and tried to help others, or if I would do whatever I had to do to protect myself.

Today, I am terrified when I read some of the anti-Semitic stereotypes and accusations that are used online. They sound just like the propaganda used against Jews, not just in the 30’s and 40’s but all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Romans probably also used similar rhetoric against Jews even before they started hating Christians as well.

Overt and virulent antisemitism has been relatively dormant in America for decades. Jews seemed to have assimilated into the mainstream to the point of almost becoming invisible. Or so I thought. Antisemitism has clearly not been socially acceptable for a while. So it wasn’t expressed openly very often, and I didn’t have to think about it or experience it directly.

I always knew it was still ‘out there,’ but I assumed it was less prevalent, less vicious and irrelevant. Now, I have to face the facts. Large segments of America’s population still hold to the same hatred and stereotypes which have plagued Jews for centuries. Americans are more tolerant and enlightened overall today, but apparently, some things won’t die out.

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An anti-Jewish sign posted on a street in Bavaria reads “Jews are not wanted here.” Germany, 1937. – US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Julien Bryan

For now, it’s ‘just words’. My family is testament to the fact that words morph into accepted — even prevailing — attitudes, then actions. Finally into social norms and policies. I don’t think we are poised to become a fascist state. I don’t believe anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican or anti-Semitic language and behavior will be tolerated by most Americans. I certainly want and need to believe that.

Nonetheless, it’s still uncomfortable for me. Having to deal with the hatred I know is there for me because of my lineage or the religion I don’t even practice is disturbing on so many levels. It was better when the haters had to hide under a rocks and were afraid to come out in the open. That’s where they belong. Under rocks.

I hope we can send them back to a place where they are afraid of us instead of us having to fear them.

DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE

“He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.” — Old English proverb, dating to the 14th century.


There has been yet another upsurge of interest in Jonestown in recent weeks. Which is not surprising given the current state of disunion in this country and elsewhere. Jim Jones and Donald Trump share many traits … and more importantly, so do their followers.

This is the most popular piece I ever wrote. It wasn’t a big hit when I first posted it, but it continues to collect views every day, year in, year out.

It is a cautionary tale, a warning for people who believe talk is harmless. To all who blindly follow, keep that long spoon handy.


If you are my age or near it, you remember the Jonestown Massacre. Even if you are younger, if in 1978 you were old enough to watch TV news, you could hardly forget it. Now that fundamentalism is enjoying a rebirth with well-known political and religious leaders (who ought to know better) urging others to murder or mayhem, it’s probably a good time to remind everyone where this kind of thing can lead.

There is nothing remotely amusing about this story. It was horrible when it happened and time hasn’t made it less so.

The Road to Jonestown

The phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has become common parlance in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow.” It usually carries a negative connotation. The “Kool Aid” references go all the back to the 1950s when it was the typical drink for children on suburban summer afternoons. The origin of the saying is something else — darker, and different. It has become the kind of bland rhetoric about which we don’t give a thought, but its roots lie in horror.

Before we talk about Kool-Aid, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane to that particularly awful episode of American history.

Jim Jones, cult leader and mass murderer, was a complex madman. A communist and occasional Methodist minister, he founded his pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name was supposed to be a reference to “the people of the world.” While Jones called it a church, it was closer to a warped version of a Marxist commune. Initially, it combined a hodgepodge of Christian references that Jones used in his diatribes … supposedly sermons.

It was never a real church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult. It required a level of commitment and financial support from members plus a degree of obedience that’s the defining quality of a cult.

Read the whole story: DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE