We lost Jimmy Breslin yesterday

Breslin received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1986 so yeah, he was that good.

800px-Jimmy_Breslin_at_the_2008_Brooklyn_Book_Festival
Jimmy Breslin at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Wikipedia)

Today is a day of mourning for journalists everywhere. We lost Jimmy Breslin yesterday.

Newspaper reports say Breslin died while recovering from pneumonia. He was 88 and until recently was still writing in his iconic style.

Breslin was the type of newsman that may not exist any longer. He started as a copy boy in the 1940s and he made his mark as a columnist for various New York City publications, reporting on the city’s politics and crime from “street level,” using the lives of average people to frame stories.

As a young teen, I stumbled across his novel, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” and laughed myself silly. That was my first introduction to Breslin and he has been a favorite of mine ever since.

Continue reading “We lost Jimmy Breslin yesterday”

Sexual assault victims on trial. Rape victim jailed in Texas

In Texas this year, a bipolar rape victim was thrown in jail after breaking down on the witness stand.

A Dallas Morning News editorial reports: “You read that right. A mentally fragile 25-year-old woman, who had been the victim of a violent rape and beating, was tossed in the slammer at the behest of prosecutors who were afraid she would skip town without finishing her testimony.”

The editorial goes on: “But the hard fact is that what happened to the victim — identified in court filings only as “Jenny” — is inexcusable. Using a state law most often employed to detain gang members or other uncooperative witnesses, Harris County prosecutors obtained a judge’s order to lock Jenny up in mid-December. … That was after she fled the courtroom in tears on coming face-to-face with the man who had viciously choked and raped her two years earlier.”

Is it any wonder that sexual assault victims — male or female — often don’t come forward? Or that once one person steps forward to accuse a serial sexual predator that several others soon follow?

It is even worse when the sexual predator is someone famous. Look at the case of former NFL superstar Darren Sharper.

Sharper drugged and raped several women between 2011 and 2014 and remained free despite mounting evidence … because of who he was.

A criminal justice official told Pro Publica, “If his name was John Brown, he would have been in jail. If a woman says, ‘He’s the guy that raped me,’ and you have corroborating evidence to show they were together and she went to the hospital and she can identify him, that guy goes to jail.”

The Pro Publica story continues: “Sharper did not — and continued an unchecked crime spree that ended only with his arrest in Los Angeles last year after sexually assaulting four women in 24 hours.”

Sexual assault victims are treated like they are the criminals and the system is afraid of powerful men.

Bill Cosby. Jerry Sandusky. Jared Fogle. The Catholic Church scandal.

How about the Dallas minister who was sentenced to 12-15 years for having sex with a 14-year-old girl … 20 years after the statutory rape!

And you’re surprised it takes time for victims to (1) come to grips with what happened to them, and (2) trust someone enough to step forward? Or that victims feel empowered when they see someone else who has the same experience speak up?

Yes, men have been falsely accused of sexual assault. No, we shouldn’t label someone a sexual predator without proof.

But we absolutely need to stop treating victims like they are criminals. We have to realize that the emotional trauma caused by rape can radically influence a victim’s willingness to step forward.

And we have to understand that powerful men are treated differently by the system.
Just ask the victims who have tried to speak out against them. They will tell you.

((October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I am raising money through my Red and Purple campaign to help local domestic violence and sexual assault advocates help victims. Find out more at www.redandpurple.org.))

Blame the right people for government regulations

San Francisco mega-bank Wells Fargo is in real trouble “from the scandal over the creation of as many as two million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts.”

I highlight this national story because the presidential campaign has revived the longstanding debate over government regulation of industry, such as banking.

It is often pointed out that government regulations are inefficient. … That there is over regulation that stifles job growth and that regulatory agencies are notoriously expensive and wasteful.

And all that is true … it is true. The regulatory system could be better.

But it is a necessary system and it is time to lay the blame for that at the feet of the right people.

Crooked business owners and CEOs.

It is not the politicians’ fault that industry regulations are needed just like it isn’t their fault that there are laws against theft or robbery.

Criminals are going to be criminals and they are going to take advantage of people if they can. Laws and regulations are society’s way to protect itself.

Most people aren’t crooks, but we can’t eliminate laws because of the people who are crooked.

Most businesses aren’t crooks, but we can’t eliminate regulations because of the ones who are crooked.

Does this put a burden on business as a whole, particularly small business? Yes, yes it does.

But aim your ire at the people truly responsible and that’s NOT politicians. It is the unethical and immoral business owners and CEOs whose greed hurts everyone.

One way or the other, understanding may cost us all we have

bible

I was doing research for a different post when I came across these two verses.

Proverbs 11:9 — “With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.”

Proverbs 11:12 — “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.”

That is a good word, “deride,” although we don’t use it very often these days. It means to express contempt for someone or to ridicule.

I’d say contempt and ridicule are pretty accurate descriptions of our national discussion right now.

I don’t know who will win the presidential election in November, but of one thing I am sure — if we don’t stop deriding each other, then almost half the nation will be mad enough to shut down the system regardless of the outcome.

Nobody wins on this path. Nobody.

Don’t trust me, listen to Proverbs again.

Proverbs 11:11 — “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.”

That wicked mouth is going to tear down the city.

What I love about Proverbs, though, is that you always get the positive with the negative, the answer with the problem. In this case we are told “through knowledge the righteous escape” and “one who has understanding holds his tongue.”

Knowledge and understanding are the answer to contempt and ridicule.
How easy!

But, maybe not.

Solomon says in Proverbs 4:7: “… Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

Though it cost all you have.

I wonder how many people are willing to give that much to truly gain knowledge and understanding.

Can you pick up the remote and watch a different news channel? Will you read a different point of view? How about walking a mile in another man’s shoes or simply sitting down and listening to the burdens of a neighbor who doesn’t think like you?

Can you turn off the contempt and ridicule long enough to see that the person on the other side of the aisle really wants to make the world a better place, as well?
I hope so.

Or else it might cost us all we have.