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Burn Baby, Burn

I remember it as if it was yesterday. The acrid smell of smoke wafted through air. The hot and humid night made sleep all but unreachable. The skyline glowed with the orange light of burning buildings. Yet, I laid there with eyes closed hoping to slip through the gates of the dream state. But it was difficult with the distant sound of machine gun fire, the rumble of tanks and armored vehicles less than a quarter mile distant. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Division’s troops had arrived, but the violence was irrepressible. The official death toll was rising, but from a reliable insider, I learned it was much higher than the public was led to believe. I was living in a war zone and frankly, it wasn’t a lot of fun.

US-RACE RIOTS-DETROIT

Near my home (AFP/Getty Images)

This wasn’t Vietnam. It wasn’t the Middle East. The year was 1967. The city was Detroit. Riots engulfed the city. A police raid on a speak-easy sparked one of the deadliest and destructive riots in the history of the United States. I was a young, married man with an expectant wife. We were afraid that if “the time” came, we’d be unable to get to the hospital. It was an exciting time.

It was a time of turmoil and tumult as our nation was being transformed and awakened. Vietnam, civil rights, a music revolution, the space age, and people were turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. I was already pretty open-minded, even for a twenty year old. But it was hard to understand what’s happening on the inside when you’re looking in from the outside. I had friends in the inner-city. I spent time in the inner-city. But the fact is … I was a young white boy of some privilege cast into a bizarre reality and the best I could do was guess about what I was seeing and hearing.

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Trump’s Trolley Kills Five

trumpyWell, America … you have murdered the trolley workers. Their blood is now on your hands. Let me be clear; a minority of Americans can rest peacefully, albeit, fearfully. They at least tried to pull the lever. They just couldn’t get enough help from their fellow Americans who “voted their consciences” or didn’t vote at all.

Ok, I get the feeling your face is dressed in confusion. “What the hell trolley is he talking about? Who died?” Let me back up and explain.

The “trolley problem” is a well-known thought experiment in the field of ethics. You remember ethics? They used to be common in the halls of government in this country.  In the trolley problem, you are confronted with a serious dilemma.

A trolley car is out of control and careening down the tracks where five workers don’t see or hear it coming. If nothing is done, the five workers will assuredly die. You see this and happen to be standing by a large lever. If you quickly pull the lever, the trolley will be directed onto another track where you see one worker who will unquestionably be killed. Do you pull the lever to save five lives at the expense of one life?

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On the Failure (Success) of Cuban Communism

The first time I visited Cuba, I was just three years old. A young man named Fidel Castro had just graduated from college with a degree in law. Carlos Prío was president of a corrupt Cuban government. Bautista had not yet taken power. Even though I was a small child at the time, I still have some vivid memories of the Cuba of 1950, the narrow streets, the open stores and markets with meat hanging overhead, the sandy beach and a friendly police officer who carried me on his shoulders. This early experience in Cuba undoubtedly had a great impact on my lifelong love and intrigue with this beautiful Caribbean island.

Less than twenty years later, I had embarked on a career as a news reporter, writer and broadcaster. Thanks to the acrimonious relations between the United States and Fidel’s communist Cuba, I could no longer visit the island. Propagandists on both sides of the fence painted lurid pictures of their evil neighbors ninety miles away. As a reporter, I learned pure, unbiased, objective reporting was sometimes a noble goal, but was impossible to obtain. As often as not, it wasn’t even the goal. The news was and continues to be distorted with intent by the government, corporate sponsors and biased news reporters. I can guarantee you that our views of Cuba, the embargo and the people of Cuba are colored by the lenses we’re forced to look through as we try to interpret the island that has been taboo to Americans for more than fifty years.

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The Tea Party’s Assault on the 1st Amendment

You really have to love these guys. Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. But you have to admit, if they weren’t so inept and dangerous to our nation’s wellbeing, members of the Tea Party would be fun to watch – sort of like a kid with a feather and honey. They’re drawing a lot of attention to themselves with some pretty nonsensical and destructive behavior. The problem is they’re dragging more rational, clear thinking people into the maelstrom they’re creating. Blinded by their anger and deafened by their din, they rail against one cause after another.

The latest bit of pure insanity involves the issue of “net neutrality”. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t fully comprehend the significance of the issue and many don’t care because they believe the issue doesn’t impact them directly. Believe me, it does. It is one of the biggest issues facing our nation today. It threatens to undermine our entire concept of freedom.

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Who Shot Gabrielle Giffords?

I was in the middle of writing a column on the Republican grandstanding surrounding the idea of repealing the healthcare bill or as they call it, ObamaCare. That’s when the news flash arrived saying Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. My heart dropped much like it did on that fateful day in 1963. I was saddened, disgusted and shamed to be a member of a society that breeds the kind people that can perform such heinous acts.

Giffords was a supporter of universal healthcare. She cared for her constituents, rich and poor. She answered to her conscience and used her strong intellect to make the decisions she felt were best for America. As I write this, the identity of the killer hasn’t been released. His motives remain a mystery.

As I do my best to resist anger and frustration, I ask “Who shot Gabrielle Giffords?”

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Book’s Progress

I’m please to report that book sales for “The Man on the Bench” are brisk and exceeding expectations. In part, I thank some great publicity from media like The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Pennisula Beacon, NPR and KPBS, and Channel Six in San Diego. Thanks to all. Keep spreading the word.

View the most recent TV show by clicking here.

The Man on the Bench

Feel free to view this as a self serving missive about my new book. The reason being – this is a self serving missive about my new book. The Man on the Bench is available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon. It’s already getting good reviews so why not sing about it?

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a piece about the death of a homeless, mentally ill man that became a good friend. When I wrote it, I knew my friend’s first name, but not his last. I decided to try and find his family and learn more about his past. The book chronicles the amazing story of Jeffrey Pastorino, the man we called the Mayor of Point Loma.

He sat on a bench for nearly twenty years. People thought he was crazy and by many standards, he was. But after discovering his past and the events that brought him to that bench, I began to wonder who was truly crazy. The path of that discovery turned out to be the basis for this amazing story. The life of this unlikely man serves as a beacon for all of mankind when it comes to dealing with our insecurities and shortcomings. For in the final analysis, we all spend at least a little time sitting on the bench. Learn more at www.54Candles.org.

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