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California Vice (Land)

 

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California Vice (Land)

The wife and I recently spent some time in California. Having been to LA and San Diego any number of times, this trip took us to northern Cali. I had not been in northern CA since the early 70s when a friend and I hitchhiked up and down the coast highway, camped in Big Sur and spent some time in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. It was just a few years after Woodstock, and there were hippies in tie-die clothes carrying Peace signs driving around in multi-color VW. Jerry was still alive. The vibe was warm and fuzzy, filled with love, flowers and plenty of that sweet smell of weed.

We stopped off in the Haight last month. There were a few folks clad in tie-die, that didn’t look that much different than their 70s counterparts. But there were more dark clothed, leather clad, pierced and tattooed kids walking the streets. Some were panhandling on corners, some sleeping in vacant storefront entrances. Walking by these kids, listening in on some of the talk while in a cafe, I didn’t sense the happiness and love that was prevalent during my first visit. There was no one handing out flowers or flashing the peace sign.

We were in a shop and saw a display of standard red and blue bandanas. Mine was getting kind of ratty, so I pulled one off the shelf. The tag said, “Vintage Bandana,” $18.00. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS! You can buy the same square, cloth bandana at any truck stop for $2.00. Capitalism and retail marketing to tourists is fully operational in the Haight. The vibe was definitely different than back in the day. Maybe it was because the weather was a bit damp and cool, or I am old and curmudgeonly. Probably a combination of two.

We travelled through NAPA wine country for some tasting. I guess my old and curmudgeonly persona was fully operational. It was like stepping into a scene at the Bushwood Country club in Caddyshack. Each place was full of couples in their 50s or so. The men wore deck shoes, crisp, pleated shorts and Lacoste Polo shirts. Their wives or girlfriends were all in sleeveless sun dresses, very tan and looked artificially younger than their partner.

The wines ranged from $60-$300 and up per bottle. Some of the wines were described with such obtuse language as, ‘a muscular note of seasoned berry’, ‘a warm bonfire aroma’, ‘the scent of a blueberry cigar box’ or the ‘leathery notes of a saddle.’ Do you really want to drink something that smells like a saddle or cigar box? Clearly, I am no sommelier. In fact, I didn’t even know what a friggin’ sommelier was. In any event, it all seemed pretentious to a “Two-Buck Chuck” aficionado like me. At least we got a buzz from the wine tasting.

We had a better ‘Fruit of the Vine’ experience in Murphy’s, California. It’s a quaint, small tourist town that reminded me of St. Charles or Hermann, Mo. There were a number of winery tasting shops, small stores and restaurants. The people were authentic and the wine and cheese prices were reasonable. We got another buzz and enjoyed the atmosphere, a win-win.

From Napa wine country to California Weed country…California Vice (Land) continues on my next blog.

 

 

 

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Black Coffee, White Flight

Black Coffee…White Flight

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Howard Levinson

February 11, 2015

I do a lot of writing at coffee shops; Panera, Starbucks, Picassos, Kaldis to name just a few. There’s Wi-Fi, caffeine, food and interesting people to watch and eavesdrop. You’d be surprised how many writers pick up quirky traits and mannerisms for characters that eventually end up in their books, from just this type of activity. I’ve done coffee shop writing written in just about every major city in the US. At a coffee shop in Atlanta, NY, Chicago, LA or Dallas, you will see nearly every type of human meandering in and out, a veritable Star Wars Cantina of diversity.

Recently, I found myself at coffee shop in the St. Charles County area. I was immediately struck by the lack of diversity of the patrons. These folks were ripped from the pages of a Bass Pro or Banana Republic catalog. I figured any minute, Mitt Romney would stroll in. I am sure there must be some flavor of customer other than vanilla at this place on some days. But on the day I was there, only soccer moms, dads and their 2.5 children, a few Bo and Luke Dukes, and a gaggle of women who would best be described as well past Cougar.

St. Charles County was one of the fastest growing counties in the US for several years running. I believe that part of that growth was due to the white flight from St. Louis City and North St. Louis County.  According to the “U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts,” St. Louis County’s mix is about 70% white, 24% black. St. Charles County is 91% white and 5% black.

Why the flight of the whites? Well…if your neighborhood succumbed to an increase in graffiti, gangs, government housing, an influx of large numbers of disenfranchised folks from lower socio-economic groups (aka minorities), a decline in the quality of the school district, an increase in crime and lowered property values, what would make you stay put?

I think this demographic shift describes St. Louis City and municipalities like Wellston in the 1950s and 60s, University City in the 1960s and 70s, and the subsequent white flight of North St. Louis County in the 80s. I’m not bashing St. Charles County or the white-flighters. St. Charles is clean, fresh, new and safe with good schools, roads and neighborhoods. Subdivisions where people know each other and look out for each other. It’s a great place to raise a family. It’s a lot like St. Louis City, Wellston, University City, Ferguson and Florissant were at one time.

The problems that boiled up in Ferguson and elsewhere in our area were inevitable as the distance between us grew. Maybe we can somehow close the gap, but as the riots, demonstrations and civil unrest continue, I don’t see anyone coming up with answers.

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Good People of Color and Good White People – Beware

Good People of Color and Good White People – Beware

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The release of the DOJ Report on Ferguson, which can be found at www.doj.gov – looks for the Ferguson PDF document, indicating evidence of inappropriate practices regarding traffic stops, traffic courts and in emails comes as no surprise. In fact, the cultural biases in law enforcement is one of the themes influencing the behavior of some of the cops who play a central role in my book, “THE TAPPING. Art imitating life.

PINHEADED BIGOTS

There are pinheaded bigots in all professions. There are racist lawyers, doctors and school teachers. Those with cultural bigotry should be taken to task. Police work is no different. There have been more than just a few times in a squad meeting or roll call at the PD where one of my fellow officers, white, black or blue, would make a rude and offensive comment such as;

  • “I jewed the dealer down on the price.”
  • “That towelhead’s place always smells like spices.”
  • “I don’t know why she stays with that coal hauler.”
  • “All those beaner landscapers are probably illegal.”
  • “You deck shoe wearing crackers are all crazy.”
  • “That was one flaming faggot.”

SAVE YOUR ASS

We, of sound mind and of minority culture, would typically tell the loudmouth to “Shut the F##* up!” And that would generally be the end of it. One could complain to the Chief, or go to the ACLU. However, these same knucklehead cops are your back-up, who you rely on to save your ass. Or they may be the first on the scene and save the life of that Jew, Arab, Black, Hispanic or Gay that they just verbally bashed. Discriminatory attitudes and moronic language does not necessarily make a poorly functioning officer.

WE’RE THE GOVERNMENT, TRUST US

However, the Ferguson DOJ report cited examples of rather egregious police officer behavior that seems to challenge that assumption. If the DOJ report is accurate, I have to wonder whether there are hundreds of Ferguson civil rights violation lawsuits and criminal cases working their way through the federal court system.  After all, it’s a government report led by an Attorney General who has his own biases.

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

Cultural insensitivity is not the only driver of the skewed number of traffic stops or court issues in black communities. The residents in those communities often lack a family network of support, resources, employment skill sets and the money to be able to keep their vehicles legal with proper inspections, license plates and insurance. And those with little family, limited resources, few employment skill sets and scant money often have their own skewed beliefs and biases.

They may be more inclined to engage in activities society views as unacceptable such as speeding, strong arm robberies, failure to obey police officers, burning down gas stations and looting tire stores and hair salons. Little was said in the DOJ report about whether the actions of some of the people who live, work or travel through the Ferguson area share any responsibility for the issues under scrutiny.

POLICE AS FIREMAN

As the focus on police bias continues, we will see some changes.  I expect the police will be much more hesitant to engage in proactive crime intervention activities. Police will become more like fireman and wait until something bad happens to respond. The group of youths walking through your neighborhood at 2am will probably proceed unchallenged, whether their intent is honorable or not.  Traffic courts will come up with new avenues to assess fines and punishment.

I expect there will be less enforcement of traffic violations committed by minority drivers. That may result in more un-inspected, unregistered and uninsured vehicles on the road. The roads in those neighborhoods will probably become less safe. And to seem more fair, I expect the enforcement of traffic violations committed by white, non-minority drivers in the Ferguson area will increase. Good people of color or not, beware.

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Ferguson Protesters – Count Your Blessings and Look In The Mirror

Ferguson Protesters – Count Your Blessings and Look In The Mirror

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March 18, 2015

YOUR BLESSINGS

  1. First Black President in the history of the US
  2. First Black Attorney General in the history of the US
  3. Many Black national and local political representatives
  4. Many ‘legitimate’ Black Pastors supporting you
  5. A thorough investigation of the Michael Brown shooting by the Black Attorney General
  6. A thorough review by a Democratic St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  7. The resignation of the Ferguson Police Chief
  8. A scathing review and overhaul of the Ferguson Police and court system

LOOK IN THE MIRROR

  1. Majority of single parent or no parent families.  How can a child learn personal responsibility from a parent who is irresponsible or absent? How can a male child learn to be a responsible man if he has no responsible men in his life?
  2. The “Entitlement” mentality.  If you are a second or even the third generation in your family who is dependent on the government to survive……Read my section above titled “YOUR BLESSINGS.” Many people of color are successful and escape their hard times. You cannot improve your lot in life without taking responsibility for yourself. Unless you are physically or mentally disabled, strive to get off the government dime and be responsible for yourself.
  3. Failed school districts.  Obviously, the current system in which school district after school district in North County loses their certification is not working. Children don’t have a chance without a quality education.
  4. Self-inflicted racial genocide.  Black young men are killing each other every day. You cannot blame the police or racism for the alarming rate at which black on black violence visits your streets.
  5. Community involvement.  A big deal was made because there were no blacks on the Ferguson City Council. The Democratic process urges participation. All you have to do is, just do it.

Protesting, by holding a sign evoking inaccurate platitudes such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and screaming obscenities and threats at the police does not help.

Look in the mirror protesters. Part of the problem may very well be looking back at you.

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Baltimore Mom Slaps Down Her Son While Elvis Sings “Down In The Ghetto”

BALTIMORE MOM SLAPS DOWN HER SON WHILE ELVIS SINGS “DOWN IN THE GHETTO.”

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“Down in the Ghetto”  I worked much of my law enforcement career in neighborhoods best described as the place Elvis sang about. That was decades ago, for me and for Elvis. I recently drove through some of my old beats and not much has changed. And, in my opinion, nor will it without some drastic changes.

So we have another city in flames.. Another 24/7 media blitz with finger pointing by everyone from POTUS to the immigrant liquor store owner whose American dream walked out of his place in the arms of what some call opportunistic leeches. Many of the talking heads say it’s because the police are thugs, the police say it’s because the kids are thugs. The honest, hard-working, decent residents blame the politicians for doing nothing to improve decades of ghetto life. They say the kids ain’t got no hope of ever getting out of the ghetto, so stealing and burning is better than working and building since there are no jobs or future to build.

It won’t be long before another black person will be killed by the police and whether it is a good or bad shoot, another city will burn. And the honest, hard-working residents of the new burning ghetto, the ‘disenfranchised’ as they are called by the politically correct, will once again be victimized. There is something to be said about the lack of personal responsibility and accountability within the disenfranchised community, but I think they do offer a valid position in pointing out that without any hope; stealing and burning makes sense to the ‘disenfranchised’ and frustrated children of multi-generational entitlement families.

Obviously 6 years of Obama’s ‘Hope and Change’ has not led to any improvement for the ‘disenfranchised.’ So, what and who will address the problem? In any event, here’s my opinion….it has to start with education.. Somehow, the Baltimore mother with 6 kids, who slapped her hoodie wearing son up-side the head to get him off the street, needs to be able to enroll her children in a school that will help her successfully instill ethical and moral values. A school whose teachers are not protected by a teacher’s union that allows bad teachers and administrators to continue worst educational practices and pass kids through the system that cannot read, write or have any idea of what civics means. Perhaps this new school paradigm will be faith based or privately run, funded by grants from the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Either way, it is a sure bet, unless a change occurs in the lives of these inner city youths, cities will continue to rot and burn. And the change, cannot come by way of a new government program. There is abundant evidence that there are enough government programs in the ghettos that are doing nothing but keeping the poor and disenfranchised, poor and disenfranchised.

The days of dual parent homes in urban areas, in which one parent works and one raises children, has gone the way of the dinosaur. It’s truly a sad state of affairs, but in my opinion, the school will have to function as educator and partly as parent. I hate to even write that, but there just are not enough responsible parents available, or up to the task in the inner city. A private, non-governmental school, operated with educational best practices by honest and hard-working professionals who are not influenced by corrupt unions or lobbyists could work.

Of course, investment to improve and rebuild the war-torn looking areas of the inner city will have to occur. Few developers will want to invest in an area, that at any moment in time, can burn to the ground. Honest and well-meaning politicians will be required to plan these re-investment programs. I am afraid, those are in short supply At least school choice is a start.