Archive for the tag 'between the lines'

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

BETWEEN THE LINES: For more than a decade, Michael R. Bloomberg governed the Big Apple. Entering politics after years as a business entrepreneur, he adapted to the process and departs with conspicuous accomplishments. To paraphrase an iconic line from a Grateful Dead song: It’s been a long, sometimes contentious, yet triumphant trip.

Some Election Day exit polls indicated that more than half of those surveyed approved of Bloomberg as mayor, but they also felt it was time the city had a new direction. And while no one can predict the future, a change is gonna come.

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Yeah, screw Canada. (Source: mezzoblue/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: In conjunction with occasional Sheepshead Bites postings of Crime Prevention Tips from the NYPD’s 61st Precinct, here’s my tale of identity theft.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Whoever said it was wisely precautious and I nearly found out how accurate that phrase is.

Someone with my fundamental awareness of ID theft tricks, telemarketing and sweepstakes scams and other forms of electronic exploitation, as well as a prior victimization, should never fall for a second scam. But, to paraphrase that insufferable pop song — oops, I almost did it again.

Nonetheless, anxiety, and an opportunity for supplemental income, almost led me into a fraudulent business relationship. Before I made any commitment or revealed too much personal information, I realized it was a rip off-in-progress, parallel to the notorious Nigerian money transfer scam. Ultimately, common sense, a little savvy, and advice from a friend triggered internal red flags and taught me an indispensable lesson without any loss.

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Source: joseanavas/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: The Supreme Court gaveth a day after it tooketh away.

Less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it — sort of — righted justice by an identical 5-4 margin when it ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and affirmed equal protection to same-sex couples and their families in states that legislate it. As a result, same-sex married couples are now entitled to the rights and benefits, such as Social Security, that are guaranteed to married heterosexual couples.

The vote came, coincidentally, just a couple of days before the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that erupted in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, which sparked the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front and drew attention to the oppression of gays, a turning point in gay rights history.

The decision noted that DOMA created and endorsed a two-tier system that basically designated same-sex couples “as second class” citizens, which violated their Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.

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Source: Silvercore Training / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: What we have in Congress — to paraphrase the iconic line from “Cool Hand Luke” — is a failure to legislate. That was quite evident last week after the Senate failed to expand existing gun laws without infringing on the Second Amendment. On top of everything else, because of undue filibustering rules, a 45 percent minority — too afraid to challenge the all-too potent National Rifle Association — defeated the will of the majority.

The American people — pardon the phrase — should be up in arms over legislation that would have strengthened and expanded background checks for gun sales.

With the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre still fresh in our minds, it was disgraceful, albeit not shocking, that nearly four dozen senators did nothing to assuage the painful memories of victims’ families or the overwhelming support of the American public in a clear cut triumph for the National Rifle Association.

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A Bushmaster AR-15, one of the three firearms the Newtown killer used to ambush his defenseless victims. Source: barryt83 / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: When I wrote my first column about gun violence in the wake of the fatal Columbine shootings years ago, I knew it wouldn’t be the last. Similar incidents happened before and were likely to happen again. I’ve written seven since then. Here’s number eight.

By now, I thought, Congress would at least have set stricter federal standards to reduce the chance of it recurring. Sensible, necessary laws are passed to ensure public safety with speed limits, penalties to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, in addition to requiring licenses, registrations and, in most states, insurance for motor vehicles. But when it comes to guns, the attitude is far too restrained.

In and around the annual commemorations to the victims of 9/11, the inevitable question is: “Do we feel safer?” That query relates to potential terrorist attacks. However, after last week’s slaughter of 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that question is also pertinent to our glut of guns. Americans own an estimated 300,000,000 of them.

Are we any safer? When people are massacred in small town schools and movie theaters, is there any safe haven from potential tragedy?

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Source: dno1967b/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: They didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Israel or any other Middle East nation, but I’m pretty sure citizens of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, anticipating the next wave of attacks, were thankful a truce was initiated last Wednesday to end the latest episode of bloodshed and bombs between Hamas and Israel.

I’m sure those people were also on the minds of many Americans as they sat down and sated themselves on our annual day of feasting.

No one can predict how long the cease-fire will last this time because Israel has been involved in one showdown or another, whether it’s labeled a war, battle, conflict or skirmish, since it became a nation. Despite lulls sprinkled in every few years, cynics know it won’t be too long before another flare-up is at hand in the world’s most unstable region.

Though it has been plagued by Arab bullies for 64 years, Israeli has defied, deterred and defeated its enemies time after time.

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The flag of the great state of Texas. Source: AustinFlag.com

BETWEEN THE LINES: I truly intended to steer clear of politics for this column. However, when I read about the secession effort set in motion this week in states that, by and large, voted for Mitt Romney, and then quickly spread in a few days, it induced me to stick my two cents into the fray as our nation becomes more sharply divided.

Have you heard about this post-Obama re-election foolishness? It’s even more outrageous than the lame excuses offered by embittered losers Mitt Romney, who said Obama gave gifts to liberal constituencies, and Paul Ryan, who said the urban vote hurt them. It’s even crazier than when Karl Rove went ballistic on election night and stubbornly refused to accept the Ohio voting results on the Fox News Channel.

The secession movement started in Texas — the reddest state — and, as of November 15, approximately 100,000 Lone Star residents had reportedly signed petitions requesting the peaceful withdrawal of their state from the union. Small numbers of citizens from every other state, including New York, quickly joined the movement and signed similar petitions asking to secede. Residents of a few states without a petition cheerfully signed one from another state.

They may do everything big in Texas, but this secession movement is hardly one of ’em. One hundred thousand is a drop in the bucket compared to the 26 million people in the nation’s second most populous state.

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Source: DonkeyHotey / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: The presidential campaign stretched out for 18 months, yet it seemed longer — a lot longer.

I’ve had my fill of annoying attack ads. At least we won’t have to see those fact-skewing, derogatory commercials — until local campaigns emerge less than a year from now.

I’m also fed up with constant robocalls. Why is it that political calls are exempt from “Do Not Call” lists? And don’t give me that free speech explanation. That’s just a flimsy excuse when self-serving representatives fashion expedient legislation to exempt themselves, yet block solicitations from private businesses.

One thing this election demonstrated was that the nation’s melting pot population is more diverse than ever — and must be given attention. While the Democratic Party got an overwhelming majority of the minority vote, it’s going to have to work hard to maintain that base and not just count on it as their base for years to come. On the other hand, though the Republican Party is far from being washed up, as long as the GOP adheres to its horse-and-buggy manifesto, it’s likely to remain losers for years to come.

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Source: barackobama.com

BETWEEN THE LINES: For habitual readers of this column, it should come as no revelation as to who my preference is in Tuesday’s presidential election.

Over the last three or four months, there’s nothing former Governor Mitt Romney or Rep. Paul Ryan did to convince me to change my mind. (I’d still rather be blue than red.) As a matter of fact, most of what they or their obstructionist Republican colleagues uttered only solidified my incentive for President Barack Obama to serve another four years.

Barack Obama is the only choice, if we hope to move forward and not revert to stale Republican policies that generated the chaos — overseas and nationwide — that we’re in today.

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Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia. Click to enlarge

BETWEEN THE LINES: A 68-year-old former Brooklyn resident died of a heart attack a few weeks ago in a New Jersey nursing home, not far from where he lived until his late teens. Though his life was undistinguished, his death prompted a New York Times obituary and op-ed, and 125 Google articles — negligible by today’s standards when compared to the glut of trivia on the rich and famous, yet more than merited for such an unexceptional life.

Few people probably ever heard of George Whitmore, but, due to a progression of regrettable circumstances, he almost certainly never realized the effect he had on the nation’s justice system or New York State’s death penalty law.

Whitmore was a grade-school dropout, whose life was disrupted when he was victimized by malicious detectives and an imperfect judicial system. It was justice run amok long before the New York City Police Department’s questionable and racially-motivated Stop & Frisk policy became the subject of debate. Even so, Whitmore was part of a pattern of veiled racism that existed — and, in some ways, still does — in the dark corners of law enforcement and the halls of the American legal system.

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