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Sep. 10 2009 — 6:42 pm | 12 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Joe Wilson and the GOP: send in the clowns

French Circus Clown

The President of the United States spoke to a joint session of Congress last night.

It was, all in all, a great speech and outlined his points for why we need universal health coverage in America. In case you missed it, here it is in a nutshell: you cannot call yourself the greatest country in the world if you don’t have it.

While the President spoke with facts and with passion, most of those in the hall listened with respectful attention.

 And then there were the Republicans.

You can easily spot them in a crowd. They are white, old, angry and rude. Some held up sheets of paper as the President spoke. It is probably their version of the detailed health plan promised almost 50 days ago by Rep. John “I sleep under a tanning lap” Boehner. At that time, he claimed they were simply putting the finishing touches on their master work. If Thomas Jefferson had taken as long to write the Declaration of Independence as Republicans have in coming up with a comprehensive health plan we would all be wearing powdered wigs, sipping tea and would have had such a plan in place for a few centuries now.

 And just imagine how handsome Boehner would look wearing a powdered wig along with that orange flush he calls skin?

Rep. Eric Kantor wasn’t listening to the President much, either. He was clicking away on his Blackberry, probably coming up with some other cute little catch phrase like one he used on a video he posted where he coined the word DemocRATS. Get it? Why work up a health care plan when you can play with letters and impress the folks back home? 

Then there was Rep. Addison Graves Wilson, Sr. Joe Wilson to his old southern friends. He called The President of the United States a liar and sat back pasty-skinned and smug. Two hours later, he apologized. It is a pattern he has followed in his less than distinguished Congressional career. In September, 2002 during a debate over the possiblity of a war in Iraq (which he heavily favored), Old Joe called Congressman Bob Filner “viserally anti-American” and said he bore a “hatred for America” (sound familiar, boys and girls?). Wilson later said he did not intend to insult Filner.

Wilson’s most notable accomplishment in the Congress? He co-sponsored H.R. 4411, which federally prohibits online poker. Thank the Lord somebody was on that top-of-the-deck issue that is bringing ruin to our economy and terrorists to our shores. Way to go, Mr. Wilson. No five-card stud in this House.

Rep. Joe Wilson is an ass and the people in his district of South Carolina should hang their heads in shame that he is the slog they sent to represent them in the Congress. All that was missing from his little routine last night was a white hood and a robe.

 Today, the President did accept this clown’s apology.

I don’t and neither should any member of the House and Senate. Sen. John McCain said it best calling the act “totally disresptful. There is no place for that in that setting or any other.”

Now why was Joe Wilson calling the President of the United States a liar? The President said that his current plan does not include coverage for illegal immigrants. Wilson, who clearly has not read the bill, thinks it does, thus the insulting shout-out. Here’s my question to Rep. Wilson–what if it did? Why shouldn’t EVERYONE in the country get universal health coverage? Is there any one group–other than oil and insurance executives–that your crew tolerates? Must you hate EVERYONE that doesn’t look like you? Except for Boehner who passed George Hamilton a few months back and is now working in a zip code all his own.  

I was sick many times while living in Italy. Not once was I asked if I was a citizen when I went for treatment. I was asked what was wrong. When my son got hurt and needed medical care in Pisa, they treated him at a nearby hospital, stitched him up and gave him an ice cream cone on the way out. They did not ask to see his birth certificate.

We can toot that greatest country horn pretty loud and often, but actions speak volumes and the greatest country acts and takes care of sick people on their turf because it goes beyond any laws or rights. It is a simple act of human decency, nothing more. It does not make us special. It makes us who as a nation we say we are–caring, concerned human beings.

As angry as I was over Mr. Wilson’s little temper tantrum, there was another moment that was as clear an example of the GOP indifference to universal health coverage and lack of concern over the most basic right of the poorest among us that you could ever hope to find. A moment when the Grand OLD Party truly deserve the scorn that should justifiably be aimed their way. It happened when President Obama said that there were still significant details to be worked out before the health plan was ready to pass muster.

This brought out a chorus of loud, booming laughter from the GOP side of the aisle.

They DO think it’s funny, one big joke to be rehased at the country club over a second round of drinks. They agree with Karl “I’ll have another donut” Rove who said he found Joe Wilson’s disrespectful  act worth a chuckle.  But hey, Rove was part of the crowd that high-fived each other over going to war and then joked on a Washington D.C. stage about no WMD’s being found. Now if you can laugh about young men sent off to fight in a war of your choosing and coming back home in coffins covered with flags, you can pretty much laugh at anything. 

So they all shared a belly laugh about universal health coverage and the plan to pay for it.

That’s because they can afford to laugh. They have the best health coverage our money can buy. They are well-stocked and well-armed to weather any storm, so why should they not laugh at those who do not?

But while the President spoke and while the GOP laughed, or twittered or called him a liar, somewhere out there in this greatest country on earth there were thousands of our very own citizens facing financial ruin over a disease or a death in the family that was caused by their inability to afford health coverage.

The GOP laughs while Americans suffer.

They twitter while people live with pain.

And they call a decent man a liar while hard-working men and women face a death that arrives much too soon and at a price too great for them to ward off its assault.

And they are too stupid and too vain and too corrupt to even care.

They never have and they never will.

Sep. 7 2009 — 5:13 pm | 0 views | 1 recommendations | 3 comments

Obama’s radical agenda: Work hard and stay in school

The President of the United States will speak to schoolchildren tomorrow.

Barack Obama, President-elect of the United St...

That sentence alone has many on the far right trembling and twitching with anger.  They do not want their little innocents to hear a single word of his “radical agenda” clearly meant to bend impressionable young minds to his sinister ways. Here is some of what the President will tell the students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia (it will also be shown live on the White House web site and telecast an hour later, at noon,  on C-Span). And this is what has the parents of the right and their GOP mouthpieces all in a lather: He will tell them that all the hard work done by parents, educators and others won’t matter “unless you show up and pay attention to those teachers.” Wow! Pay attention in class? You mean like Dad does to Rush and Fox every chance he gets? What is this guy, some kind of socialist?

He will tell students that if they quit school, “you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.” What kind of crazy talk is that? We as a nation rank 27th in the world in science and even further down in math and we should be damn proud of those results and we don’t need anyone, especially the President of the United States, telling our kids otherwise.

The President will tell them that “it is hard to be successful,” that it requires hard work and dedication but that what the students accomplish in school today will “determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.” Now wait one second there, Mr. President. There must be a radical, left-wing agenda in there somewhere, if only I could tear myself away from the Beer Pong Finals to figure out exactly what it is.

He will tell them he was raised by a single mother who forced him, often against his wishes, to work harder, read more and do better and that if he did so, it would pay off. And look at where all that hard work landed him–in the White House. What kind of crazy talk is that for any kid to have to listen to? And besides, he wasn’t even born in this country or were you out shooting squirrels with the new rifle Daddy bought you when that memo came down?

The White House calls the conservative shouting match to boycott the President speaking to school children “silly season.” I think it goes a lot deeper than that. I think the far right has their own agenda and that is simply to discredit this particular President in as many ways as possible, even in the eyes of our youngest citizens.

I saw a member of the Florida GOP on a talk show who referred to the President as ”the Pied Piper” leading our children down dark and dangerous paths and he smiled and snickered throughout the entire interview as if he alone were privvy to some private joke that no one else could hear.

And the far right does think it funny, as they hide their bigotry and ignorance behind the mask of concerned parents. Were they concerned when Nancy Reagan spoke to them about the dangers of drug use and asked them to write Just Say No letters? Were they all in a frenzy when George Bush asked them to each send money to help the war effort? Of course not, but then they were white and right and very much a part of an America they so desperately want to keep off life support.

Instead of ranting and raving about the President of the United States addressing America’s school children and essentially asking them to stay in class and make something out of their lives, the GOP should come out swinging and mount a speaking campaign of their own. God knows they have the voices.

Sarah Palin, for example, could speak to them about being a responsible parent and  the value of being taught sex education at an early age. No wait, scratch that. Then you have to ask about the kids who had a kid under her roof.

I know, how about letting Gov. Mark Sanford lecture them on morals and what it takes to make a good husband? On second thought, maybe we should keep him on the shelf until the kids are old enough for tango lessons.

That leaves the Congresswoman from Minnesota (you know who you are, Michele), who can talk to the kids and let them see the value of a wasted education, while she debunks every scientific theory ever recorded.

The fact that people got angry and plan to boycott the President of the United States from speaking to school children goes against the very grain these great Americans allegedly stand for. They are the first to scream about First Amendment rights and then are the first in line to block such talk if they are told by someone on the radio or on an insulting excuse for a network that it would be sending dangerous signals to their children. They should be ashamed of their actions.  But instead they revel in their vicious response, taking a certain amount of pride in their attacks on the President and the reaction and attention such actions generate.  No President of the United States, regardless of party affiliation, should be attacked or denied the right to speak to the school children of this country.  Maybe if the ones who have screamed the loudest had taken the lessons tossed their way by past Presidents, then perhaps we wouldn’t have the  need for such inane conversation.

It is ironic that  our previous President was in a classroom, reading a book to children, when word of the September 11 attacks were whispered in his ear. I know he has been attacked endlessly because he sat there for quite a bit of time in silence and did nothing. I actually believe that was one of his better moments–he had to absorb the enormity of the attack, on our soil, on his watch, in full view of a classroom of young children. Anything he could have said or done would have only made the situation worse. In those moments, I believe he acted as much as a parent as he did a President.

All Presidents act as parents, our current one no exception, despite the misguided and made-up accusations lobbed in his direction this past week. Will his lesson and words tomorrow have any impact? On a few, perhaps. Others will listen and most likely forget what he said by the time the final bell rings. It is what we expect of children. They live in the moment, not yet fully aware of the consequences of words or actions.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the adults who are there to help guide them on their path, especially those who have screamed the loudest against the President delivering his talk tomorrow.

They are the class clowns who should be paying the most attention and listening to his words. His words. Not the words of others who, later in the day, will twist them in ways that suit the agenda they seek to bring forth.

Listen to the words.

And then, turn off the television, click off the radio and sit and talk to their kids about those words. Argue about them. Agree with them. But do it together and come to your own conclusions. Don’t let anyone else decide for you.

You decide.

Just this once.

It is often as simple as that.

Aug. 24 2009 — 1:19 pm | 36 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Trent Franks and the no apologies necessary tour

{{w|Trent Franks}}, U.S. Congressman.

Trent Franks is a Republican Congressman from Arizona. That means a number of citizens actually voted this man into office expecting him to work for them in Washington on the pressing issues of the day. To most that would mean trying to figure a way out of the current recession, bringing jobs to his district,  working to make health care a reality for those in his area in need.  

But, Trent Franks has his GPS pointed in another direction.

 He is considering filing a lawsuit against President Obama because he believes there is not enough evidence to prove he is an American citizen. Obama that is, not Franks. He made this deep announcement at a town hall meeting over the weekend. According to Glenn Thrush of Politico.com, the esteemed Congressman also nodded in agreement with a woman who, with tears streaming down her face, said she was offended that President Obama denounced the U.S. as a Christian country during a recent trip overseas. That he never did any such thing did not alter her opinion one bit. And neither did Congressman Franks make any move to correct her.  Such an action does not fit into his master plan.

And there you have it.  One more log on this insane fire of hate that burns within the soul of our Christian nation. A Christian nation that allowed slavery for centuries and Jim Crow for decades. A Christian nation   that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II for no reason. A Christian nation that sent Italian-Americans into a dust bowl in Montana during that same war, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of them had sons fighting and dying for the US overseas (out of sheer shame at being arrested for no reason, nearly 25% of those men committed suicide). A Christian nation that dropped bombs on Iraq for no reason other than we believed in the Christian President who told us that country was  a threat to our way of life.

That Christian nation.

The one which,  I’m told,  is not even allowed to imply it has ever done anything wrong.  It also seems you especially cannot imply that on foreign soil . This I learned only  recently after President Obama said we are not a perfect nation while on a trip overseas. That is yet another new GOP rule–a President must never say anything overseas about the U.S. other than we are the greatest country in the world and the rest of you suck. The GOP pulls one of these babies out of their ass whenever the moment suits them.

 Mitt Romney, next in line for the GOP run for the White House, in fact has a book coming out in the spring.  It’s called No Apology.  And for a devout Mormon, you have to admit such a title takes balls. That four wives rule, Mitt? You’re not sorry about that one? How about telling us during your Presidential run, while young men and women were being shot to shit in Iraq, that your five sons were proudly serving their country by helping you get elected? Not even a little teeny “I was off base “on that one?

Sarah Palin also doesn’t think we should ever apologize– for anything. At least I think that’s what she said during the first part of her farewell tour, which will last as long as the Rolling Stones but be nowhere near as much fun. And as Bill Maher noted Friday night, we’re still waiting for Sen. John McCain to apologize to us for bringing Palin into our lives.

Newt Gingrich doesn’t think we should apologize ever, not even if you  cheat on your wife while she thinks you are out helping make America a better place. Did I get that one right, there, Newt?

So there you have it. An elected Congressman, during one of the most troubling economic times in this country’s history (not to mention two wars being fought overseas), deciding what we need to do, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is bring the President of the United States to court. Over a birth certificate. 

Congressman Franks believes global warming is a myth. He is thick as a thief with James Dobson, founder of  Focus on the Family (so long as it’s, you know, a Christian family that never apologizes).  He worked for Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, who cancelled Martin Luther King, Jr. Day while in office. Hey, wait. Wasn’t Dr. King a Christian? Isn’t President Obama a Christian? So I wonder what could be the problem, then? What else, boys and girls, do Dr. King and President Obama have in common?

Congressman Trent Franks is simply the tip of an ugly iceberg floating across our nation. It has been there for far too long and it will never go away. The issue of race is  too deep and too imbedded for us simply to wish it gone or declare ourselves rid of the disease because we elected the first African-American President. All that did was bring the racial fever to a boil and allow long supressed emotions to be screamed out, barely hidden beneath a blanket of birth certificates questions, no apology tours, health care reform lies,  gun rights gone gun-mad and fake fury over a Hispanic woman appointed to the Supreme Court.

Initially,  I was one of those foolish  enough to think it had all changed.  That perhaps the election of President Obama would lead us down a fresh path, one where we would finally put the issue of race in the rear view mirror and focus on the very real problems in front of us. I was happy to have lived long enough to see my children vote for a man as President not because of the color of his skin but because of his ability to lead us out of the crater left behind by the previous administration.  He stood up to a tough and determined opponent during the primaries and then reached out and asked her to be his Secretary of State (not only smart, but a pretty Christian thing to do). He defeated a war hero in the election, an essentially   good man who should have been elected President in 2000 but was done in by his own party.  He reached out to him as well.

But it didn’t last and it seems as if it wasn’t meant to.  Any statement made was magnified and was seen to have a double meaning. The birthers movement was given birth. Gun sales went up. One state ran out of bullets. Death threats against him grew 400% higher than those against President Bush.  When Obama proposed a bank bail-out plan, he was called a Socialist. Even though President Bush’s similar plan was called an action of last resort. Obama made the move to universal health care and out came the Hitler photos and the Nazi signs.  Prior to that, there were editorial cartoons depicting monkeys offering bananas and, even worse, monkeys shot to death.

 And the cancer spreads by the day. Elmore Leonard once wrote of one of his characters, “if he were any dumber,  he  would need to be watered twice a week.” That definition fits  many in Congress,  Michele Bachmann first in that conga line.

 And now into that tight little circle we can safely shove Rep. Trent Franks.

They are members of the United States Congress.

And for that, I deeply apologize.

Aug. 19 2009 — 4:05 pm | 80 views | 1 recommendations | 5 comments

G. Gordon Liddy and the Ugly Americans

Adolf Hitler, head-and-shoulders portrait, fac...

We are living in the middle of a John Carpenter movie.

And perhaps through one of the ugliest periods in our nation’s young history.

It is there to see and hear everywhere you turn. The election of President Obama, a bright, articulate and good man, to the highest office in the land has sent the loons over the edge. And each day it grows worse.

It took flight with the Birthers movement, championed by the always dependable hard right who questioned whether the President was actually born in the United States. Despite overwhelming proof–from birth announcements printed in two Hawaiian newspapers free of charge and based solely on calls from them to local hospitals to the birth certificate itself, authenticated by a Republian official–these clowns continue to parade themselves on national television and present their proof, which is, essentially, no proof at all. The best case I can make behind the insanity of all this is that one of the leading Birthers is none other than G. Gordon Liddy, a man famous for not being able to find five criminals who knew how to pick a lock.

I watched Liddy on “Hardball” a few weeks back. Now, I love Chris Matthews and think his show is one of the best political hours on television. But why he would have as a guest a man who has accomplished nothing of note in his life is beyond me. A short bio of Liddy tells you everything you need to know about the word failure:  He managed to make it through the Army, but like most gung-ho war guys, he never saw any action and never left Stateside.  He landed a job in the FBI where a supervisor labeled him a “superklutz.”  He worked as a prosecutor and shot a gun off in a courtroom. Then, he found heaven working as a “counter-intelligence mastermind” for Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election committee. And man did he come through like Mariano Rivera in the clutch for that team. He and his fellow “White House Plumbers” proposed bombing the Brookings Institute and then going in disguised as fireman to steal documents. That didn’t fly. He then came up with the idea of kidnapping anti-war protesters and shipping them off to Mexico. That too got a thumbs down. So, instead, he was put in charge of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate. Here’s how well that one went: It brought down the President of the United States and landed Liddy a 20-year prison sentence. He ended up doing 4 and one-half years behind bars. In the 1980s he wrote a book and started a private security and counter-surveillance company that went belly up. He now has a syndicated talk radio show with a following that is gun-loving, racist and dull normal.  Here are a few of his radio suggestions:

In 1994, he said, “Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot…..kill the sons of bitches.”

And just to show he hasn’t mellowed over the years, this is what he said this past May on the possible confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she is menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad.”

And before I forget, there’s this little ditty:  as a child, Liddy listened to speeches made by Adolf Hitler and come away feeling “a strength inside I had never known before.”

And this is the genius who is one of the leaders in the march against our President.

But he is not alone.

We live in an age where facts no longer matter, only uninformed opinions do. Where a guy like Joe the Plumber (who is neither named Joe nor is he a plumber) can speak at an anti-health care rally and actually have people listen to what he has to say. You have the far right calling the President a Nazi and drawing a Hitler moustache on his photos failing to realize as Pete Hamill noted the other day on Morning Joe that “the Nazis were right wingers.”  You have citizens showing up at Presidential rallies and town hall meetings armed as if the Taliban were in the next room. You have angry men and women tossing around words like socialism and fascism and not even sure what they actually mean. You have elected officials like Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Sarah Palin openly lie about death panels and the health care plan that is winding its way toward Congress.

And then if you read enough of the comments and hear enough of the talk you realize what it really is all about. The GOP doesn’t care about health care, if they did they would have come up with a plan for it years ago. Instead, they planned a war that can’t be won in a country we shouldn’t be in. That has wasted billions of dollars and destroyed thousands of young lives. But they’re not interested in those facts. That was about freedom and, well okay, oil.

They don’t care because the guy driving the car this time around happens to be black.

That’s what this shouting match they like to call a debate is really about. And the right simply cannot come to terms with that fact. They still can’t believe we as a country allowed it to happen. And they will do anything and everything to see that it never happens again. So, they let loose their meager mouths that roar–from Rush on the radio, downing his dope with gulps of Green Tea to Hannity and Beck the crying man and the off-the-rails Lou “Obama wasn’t born here and neither were the Mexicans” Dobbs. Their politicians cackle when the Administration makes an error in judgement or unemployment goes up another couple of hundred thousand. They disregard the human cost. They only focus on what it costs him in the polls.

To simply defeat Obama with lies would be one thing.  But they have another weapon at their disposal and they use it well and with frequency–hate. No one hates like the fringe right. Gays? Not in our house. College-educated working women? So long as I don’t have to work for her. Hispanics? Let me see their papers first and bury that talk about pride. This is America, damn it. African-Americans? We’ll take Steele, Rice and Thomas, after that, table’s full and they can only stay if they do as we say. Pro-Choice. Not a chance.

It is a group that is aging faster than a bottle of two-buck Chuck. They are down to 20% of the population and sinking. They are angry over lost jobs that will never come back their way. They are fueled with a hatred toward those with educations because they chose not to pursue one. They are cornered because they are now the minority and they just didn’t see that punch coming their way. They don’t read, trusting the folks at Fox and right wing radio to tell them the real truth about the real America. They are told over and over that they once lived in the greatest country in the world and it can be that again. But first, we have to deal with the problem at our front door. We got ourselves a black Hitler in the White House. A Socialist. Going to come in and take your guns and tell your kids to get abortions. Make you drive French cars and exercise every day and kill your Grandmother. He is the reason you are in such a bad place. Once he’s gone you will again be free Americans.

Once he’s gone.

They hear this talk and they embrace it and take it to heart, mostly because they don’t know any better and partly because they want it to be true.

They are the Ugly Americans and they are not on foreign shores but right here, right here among us.

The death threats against President Obama are 400% higher than those against President Bush. Those numbers will only grow as the hatred meter moves deeper toward the red line.

It is truly a dangerous time.

FDR once warned that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Today, our biggest fear comes from those around us.

Aug. 7 2009 — 6:42 pm | 75 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Big Sam: the Jackie Robinson of the N.Y.P.D.

New York City Police Department

Samuel Jesse Battle was the Jackie Robinson of the New York Police Department.

 He was sworn in and given his badge and gun on March 6, 1911–the first African-American officer in the newly unifed city of New York (his brother-in-law, Moses P. Cobb, worked as a cop in Brooklyn in 1890 but that was in the years before unification). He was first assigned to work the then all-black neighborhood known as San Juan Hill.  Battle was known to all as ”Big Sam” and came by the name naturally–he stood six foot three inches tall and weighed in at a solid 280 pounds. He was born on January 16, 1883 in New Bern, North Carolina and died on this day in 1966 at the age of 83.

 Earlier this week, on August 4, the intersection of West 135th Street and Lenox Avenue was designated as Samuel J. Battle Plaza in his honor.

It is an honor well-deserved and a long-time coming.  It is never easy being the first to enter any field, let alone the sealed and silent world of a big-city police department in the early years of the 20th century. Not when your fellow officers snub you or dismiss you or brag to a local tabloid reporter that “policing New York City is a white man’s job.” Much like Jackie Robinson would decades later on a ball field, Big Sam Battle dealt with the hazings, the silent treatment and the hatred. Through it all, Sam Battle walked the walk and did his job–working each and every day to keep the citizens he was paid to protect safe from harm.

  He was soon re- assigned to Harlem and there he spent the bulk of his 30-year police career. In 1919, he saved the life of a white police officer during an altercation with an unruly crowd.  He was proud to wear the blue and was a welcome sight to the Harlem residents who were proud to see one of their own patrol the streets of their neighborhood. In 1926, despite fierce opposition, Sam Battle was promoted to sergeant and then, in 1935, he made the leap to lieutenant, always with the word first before his name.

 That was the same year riots erupted on the streets of Harlem and they were quelled, legend has it, by Sam Battle.

 The riots allegedly began over the murder of a young boy in the basement of Kness’ Department Store. Battle had flyers printed and distributed throughout the angry and fiery streets, flyers that bore a photo of Big Sam with his arm around the smiling boy who had been murdered. His intent was clear–the police are not the enemy–and his plan worked.

 In 1941, Big Sam Battle left the NYPD and landed a job as the first Parole Commissioner in New York. There he worked with troubled kids in Harlem, setting up summer camps, sports programs, rehab care–anything to keep them out of jail and on a steady path.  He was called back into police work in 1943 by then Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to restore peace to the streets of Harlem. A white officer had shot and killed a black suspect and the fuse in the neighborhood was once again lit. Big Sam Battle came in and did what he had always done in all his years as a cop–he finished the job. 

 He shut it down for good in 1951, stayed active in the community he had grown to love and consider his home, the one-time train porter now a respected, decorated and retired NYPD police officer.

  It wasn’t an easy road Sam Battle chose, just the right one.  He was the first and he knew that in order for there to be others to follow in his path, he needed to set a standard, work the job the way it was meant to be worked, ignore the ugliness around him and focus on being the best. You honor the memory of Big Sam Battle simply by calling him a good man and an even better cop. It is often as simple as that.

 I thought of Big Sam Battle this week, as I watched another cop appear on the Larry King show, a Boston police officer named Justin Barrett. He showed up with a lawyer by his side which is never a good sign.   Officer Barrett felt the need to express his opinion regarding the recent arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He put his thoughts down in an e-mail which he sent to his fellow officers and members of his National Guard unit where he is a Captain. In his e-mail, he referred to the Professor as a “banana-eating jungle monkey.” He also felt the need to follow that with this gem: “I am not a racist.” He has been suspended from his military duties such as they are and has been put on paid administrative leave by the Boston PD.

Those words would not have been new ones to the ears of Big Same Battle. I’m certain he heard the same and much worse in his 30 years on the job. And he did what we all should do whenever we see them written or hear them spoken–ignore them and go about our business and bring honor to an honorable profession. In Sam Battle’s case, that of an officer in the NYPD, quite possibly the best department of its kind in the country. 

All departments have pieces of spoiled fruit in their bag. They are, after all, no different than any other profession. But they also have honorable men like Deputy Inspector Kevin Catalina, who worked as hard as anyone to make sure Big Sam Battle got his Plaza. That he got his reward for 30 years of a job well done. So, whenever you hear a tale of a bad cop or one who goes down the ugly road, remember the good ones–like Deputy Inspector Catalina.

Like Big Sam Battle.

Sometimes, the playing field does even out. 

Big Sam Battle has a Plaza named after him now.

 It rests on the street he used to walk and keep safe.

He was a cop. By all indications, a great one.

He has earned his place of honor.

And we are all the better for having him be a big part of our city.

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    About Me

    I've written eight books (A Safe Place; Sleepers; Apaches; Gangster; Street Boys; Paradise City; Chasers and--coming in July, 2010-Midnight Angels). I've written a dozen film scripts and a half-dozen TV pilots and am working on my next one now, Night and Day for Lifetime. I also worked as a writer/producer for Law&Order and was managing editor of the CBS series Top Cops. When I was much younger I worked at the New York Daily News and for way too many magazines to list (most of them no longer in business). I love sports, politics, travel, wine, dogs, reading, working out, great Italian food, old friends, history, movies, television, plays. I live in the city where I was born, worry about my kids even though they are adults now and love quiet time in the country with my wife. The older I've become, the more liberal I've become and I don't believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. I believe everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. I hope my posts will bear that out.

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    Followers: 51
    Contributor Since: March 2009