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The Don’t Blame Us Game

By Jerry Waxman

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 “Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little: cheep, cheep, cheep talk a lot pick a little more.”

 

Meredith Willson’s delightful chorus number from The Music Man is an apropos way to start this conversation. The song, if you remember, features the School Board members in counterpoint (Good Night Ladies) telling the town’s ladies to go home and stop talking. Fast forward from River City circa 1905 to Orange County 2013 and see if this sounds familiar. Now obviously no one was told to shut up and go home, at least not blatantly but the tone was “Don’t bother us! We’re busy trying to adopt a workable budget, and besides we’re not the bad guys; blame your state legislators, or blame the sequester or blame the anemic tax base etc. You teachers need to work out a deal with our negotiators.”

The budget, as presented in a Power Point presentation showed mostly bullet points with a brief explanation by CFO Richard Collins on both revenues and expenditures. A brief explanation of a three billion dollar budget still takes quite a while but the outcome of the discussion is “We don’t have enough money to fully fund your raise.” The teachers countered with “Don’t cry poor all the way to the bank!” Diana Moore, President of the Classroom Teachers Association pointed out that the overage in the fund balance in 2012 was three hundred eighty million dollars and as of June 30 this year the overage was over four hundred thirteen million. The excuses that the Board is not in control of that money, and there are regulations and minimums fell on completely deaf ears as well it should. There’s no explainable excuse other than they don’t want to ruffle political feathers instead of finding a way to satisfy teachers. Two Board members weren’t even there for the most important meeting on the schedule. I don’t know why Nancy Robbinson was absent but former chairman, Joie Cadle, had an important meeting with some business people. Obviously that took priority over a three billion dollar budget and satisfying teacher concerns.

Once the budget explanations were finished, despite showing up over a half hour late the Board took a recess despite the very vocal objections of the over capacity room. Everyone on the teachers side, perhaps a hundred and fifty or more started shouting, er chanting “Vote Them Out!” a couple of dozen times.

After the break it was time for public comment. Some of this stuff is heartbreaking. The links will be at the end of the article. The board then voted unanimously to adopt the budget without even trying to accommodate the teachers. So much for advocacy for its chief asset that helped this board make a record number of A & B schools. A word to this board in particular-scorned lovers can wreak the kind of revenge you’ve never dreamed of. Sometimes it is definitely better to give than receive. If the teachers and their allied unions ever get their collaborative acts together they will control the election process in Orange County, although you couldn’t see it last evening. Only Steve Clelland from the Orlando Firefighters and a few people from Unite Here were there in support. Sure, the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles was on, but a Central Labor Council with over 40,000 members that couldn’t scrape up thirty or forty members to show support for a sister union is tragic. The teachers and the public deserve better.

Round three of the contract talks will start Thursday morning. Let’s see what happens. Excuse me please while I egest my breakfast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuvL9Ca0HsI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnvBi-pwEqs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLHLlM7Ym08

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ot83T632BE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAPwRb16v7Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cil_4YI3aYw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzRc8Ag29L8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPADweMXJ90

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HYpBtzCGXQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1fPVolMjk4

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Stoonts…..First? Don’t Make Me Laugh!

 

By Jerry Waxman

You have to love Al Capp. He was one of the most outspoken social critics of the mid twentieth century; he made no bones about it, and he did it through his art-the comics. He was the creator of Li’l Abner, the proverbial fish out of water and his comic strip viewed the world through the lens of Dogpatch, Kentucky USA. He poked fun at everyone including other cartoonists with his parodies of Little Orphan Annie, Mary Worth and especially Dick Tracy. His Fearless Fosdick character ran intermittently  for over thirty years and other than the Shmoo, he was the most popular character excluding the Yokum family and the residents of Dogpatch. He also parodied real people such as Charles E. Wilson. Wilson was President of General Motors who became President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense. Wilson made the famous statement “What was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” Capp parodied him as General Bullmoose (“What’s good for me is good for everybody.”) and he eventually became the symbol for corporate greed and the Military Industrial Complex. During the late 60’s he turned to the protest movement and created “Joanie Phonie”, a send up of singer Joan Baez, however he denied it was specifically Ms. Baez. He also commented on the student uprisings in 1968 and created the organization that encompassed SDS, SNCC and all of the others called SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything). When SWINE took over the college campus, the MOB came to take over the school’s administration and addressed them in the mob vernacular as “stoonts.”  The only reason the mob got involved is because it was profitable. The mob did not and does not invest in losing propositions. And that’s where this story begins. Indulge me, dear reader, but you need to have some context about where we are and where we’re going. The mob referred to were the gangsters of the era. The new mob that has taken over is a combination of the Banksters, hedge fund managers and foundations who generously fund education reform for profit. If it weren’t profitable they wouldn’t be in it. These people don’t give money away-they demand their pound of flesh or its monetary equivalent in return.

With that in mind let’s look at the mob’s latest scheme, carefully coded and messaged into the words “choice, failing schools, great teachers, leadership and innovation.” It’s the same old story that’s been going on for years since Brown vs Board of Education spurred the voucher and privatization movement under the aegis of Milton and Rose Friedman ( yes, that Milton Friedman) whose ideas couldn’t gain any kind of foothold until the billionaires started up their think tanks in the late sixties and early seventies. The Reagan presidency gave those ideas potency, if not credibility and they’ve gone full steam ever since. Florida is ripe territory, especially because of former governor Jeb Bush who is part of the whole education reform process, and whose ghost still keeps this state in his grasp.

They tried it two years ago and it didn’t work out all that well. The Koch Brothers’ funded Americans For Prosperity sent Dick Morris and Ralph Reed among others to talk about school choice. Orlando was one of their stops and they met a tone of resistance from the community and protesters. Their coded message was simple-minorities don’t count. Get your kids into a more segregated atmosphere that you control. This time they changed the game plan and targeted the black audience through the Urban League. The message was absolutely the same-get your kids into a more segregated atmosphere that you control. So, under the sponsorship of the Urban League of Florida the “We Care” Traveling Circus was initiated to travel around the state in high minority urban areas disseminating their well-rehearsed and carefully coded propaganda.

They invaded Orlando on September 5 and settled into the Hope Church in the heart of the black community and were greeted by an audience of less than 50 people, many of whom were staff members who had to be there. Publicity was nil and no one would have known it save for a few activists who got wind of it and sent it out via social media. Allie Braswell, president of the Central Florida Urban League hosted the event and declared that his organization held no particular position on the matter, which is suspect for a couple of reasons. First, there was no differing point of view on the panel. No one on the panel stood up to extol the virtues of public schools. Secondly, these type of organizations depend on funding from many sources, including the Gates and Walton foundations and astroturf groups like Students First, whose Florida Executive Director, Troy Bell, was part of the panel. It’s very likely that the Urban League receives funding from one or more of these sources. You can find out by asking to examine their books, which they can’t refuse to do. Braswell is in a tough position because he is basically a good man and I like him. He recently filed to run for the office of Florida CFO but had to withdraw for reasons I’ll not go into because I completely disagree with them. He should have stayed in the race. It’s also possible that he had no control over this because it was mandated at the state level. Let’s give him a pass because he is definitely committed to better education, and he has to do his job. The rest of this cast of characters is a different story.

“It is better to look good than to feel good”- Fernando Lamas as portrayed by Billy Crystal

 

That sums up in a nutshell what’s going on. The people they are trying to reach don’t pay a lot of attention to politics and many of them are not registered voters. Lots of them don’t have computers or cable so their news intake is limited. They are prime victims for smooth talking con artists who sound like they know what they’re talking about. Make no mistake about it; this was a con of the first degree. Moderator Monica May kept on cheerleading the remarks as they spoke. Here’s how the con works:

  1. The Setup. USF Professor Dr. Bruce Jones talks about the disparity in the public schools and percentages of children who are failing. He’s got great credentials but I get the feeling that the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Only what he wants them to tell.
  2. The Bait. Dr. Ella Thompson of the Florida Dept of Education was supposed to address the Common Core, but all she did was to spout the state line. She knew nothing about budgets and couldn’t talk on any subject except her narrow focus. Interestingly enough, she came to the department at the same time that Rick Scott hired disgraced education boss Tony Bennett. She’s still pretty new at the game, but she reminds me of Rod Paige who never directly answered a question and kept referring everyone to No Child Left Behind without ever bothering to explain it.
  3. The Justification. Isha Haley of Black Floridians Care spoke about starting a whole slew of neighborhood schools with great teachers and fabulous leadership, without ever addressing the pitfalls of no money to start, staff and maintain them. She blamed Brown vs Board of Education for the miseries the kids are suffering today. So, in effect she’s advocating to restore segregation as our society is becoming (albeit slowly) more homogenous. But Boy! She sounded great!
  4. The Hook. As he introduced himself Troy Davis, Executive Director for Florida Students First never mentioned his boss Michelle Rhee, founder of the organization by name. Why? Don’t you think that he would be proud to serve under her? In that audience more than half the people probably never heard of her and have no idea of her cheating scandals and manipulated test scores in Washington D.C. The rest of his speech was all about him and his accomplishments. I’d like to know what connections he has to Tony Bennett since he spent a bunch of time in Indiana. Again, the rhetoric about no excuses and failure is not an option. No charter school child fails because they’re thrown out and the schools don’t give the taxpayers their money back.
  5. The Net. Glen Gilzean, of Step Up For Students cemented the hook and netted the fish by being a little more humble and a lot less arrogant than Davis. The result was the same.

During the Q & A period the questions were rather mundane. There was one charter school Nap Ford that boasted of gains due to tremendous leadership yet no other charters were present to tell their stories. There was one dissenting voice, however. Kathy Hettinger, a Democratic activist took the entire panel to task for their hypocrisy. Hettinger spoke rapid fire and was sometimes hard to understand because as passionate as she is she’s not a good public speaker and many times she opens her mouth before her brain is fully engaged. So, what’s the verdict? Watch the videos and decide for yourselves. My only complaint about the entire evening was that by the time I got home I had missed the first 10 minutes of Vertigo and Bernard Hermann’s fabulous overture. Oh, one other question-what would Al Capp think of this fiasco?

Alan Grayson at the Hungry i

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By Jerry Waxman

At the Hungry I

“Comedy is a serious business. A serious business with only one purpose-to make you laugh” W.C.Fields

 

If you’re of a certain age you remember the Hungry i, the legendary San Francisco club where a whole slew of comedians and musicians got their start. Founded in 1950 the club operated through the mid sixties until the political scene, comedy and music started to change. Performers who either got their start or enhanced their careers include (although not limited to) Bill Cosby, Lenny Bruce The Kingston Trio, Mort Sahl, Glenn Yarborough, Tom Lehrer, The Limelighters, Vince Guaraldi, Godfrey Cambridge, Professor Irwin Corey, Dick Cavett, Woody Allen, Orson Bean, Shelley Berman and Barbra Streisand. Many of them recorded live albums there so the name became synonymous with comedy and folk music. John Phillips prior to founding the Mamas and the Papas led the house band. The room itself was just that; bare walls with a performance area.

It was supposed to be an Orange County Democratic Party social event with a hook. If you bought a raffle ticket for $25.00 you could win a dinner with the congressman. The place was a beer and wine bar near upscale Baldwin Park in Orlando. It was supposed to last an hour and a half from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. The back room of the place reminded me of the Hungry i. The place was packed with anticipation. I was there as a participant in the event and I had no intention of writing about it. I’ve written about Alan Grayson many times. It’s not that hard. He’s a newsmaker and he’s never boring; you also never know what to expect from him which makes him very interesting. He’s become Alan Grayson 3.0, the humorist.

A humorist is different from a comedian. Sure, he can match one-liners and punch lines with aplomb like a comedian yet, like a good storyteller, he sets up situations and keeps you interested until the final moment, reminiscent of O Henry or Mark Twain. He evokes images of Myron Cohen, Sam Levenson, Willie (I’m not Rappaport!) Howard and Lou (Sam, you made the pants too long!) Holtz (not the football coach). If he were to become a writer he would easily fit into the Mark Twain mold. He has developed that demeanor. I can’t remember exactly what he said but he riffed on the bestowment of his title “The most Effective Member of Congress” for close to fifteen minutes. The heavily partisan crowd applauded his remarks and booed rather loudly at the mentions of Rick Scott and Marco Rubio as if on cue; well, it really was on cue because he served as his own prompter. He took advantage of the situation and remarked “I can see the Fox News headlines tomorrow, Democrats boo Grayson.” I wish I had recorded the event I wasn’t prepared to record the proceedings or take notes so it is difficult to recreate his remarks accurately. His topics ranged from his legislative accomplishments to health care, Medicaid, Social Security, the paid sick time fiasco and the Republicans in congress being mathematically challenged. On a serious note he did reflect on his hand delivery to the White House of three million petitions telling the President to keep his hands off of Social Security and Medicare. It was effective because the White House doesn’t talk about it anymore. If he ever decided to give up the congress gig he could take his act on the road and “lay them in the aisles”.

Finally, the raffle winner, a young woman got her picture taken with him and he remarked kiddingly about his grass roots fundraising from small donors (and I’m paraphrasing) “You mean to tell me I can be bought for $25.00? What if you don’t want to have dinner with me? For $2500.00 I can arrange that.” Wild applause and laughter followed and after that his final quip was “For $5000.00 I’ll never speak to you again!”

Have Letterman’s people called yet?

Marian McPartland (A Remembrance)

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By Jerry Waxman

I heard the news this morning on the radio (NPR, of course) while driving to one of our field trips and it hit me hard. I couldn’t think about it much during working hours but when I got home I couldn’t think of anything else. I knew it was going to happen but it doesn’t prepare you for when it actually does happen. She was 95 and yet it suddenly doesn’t seem to be that old anymore, because to me Marian McPartland and her contemporaries ( Dave Brubeck, George Shearing, Billy Taylor and scores of others) are ageless. She and they have left us a musical and creative legacy beyond compare that will transcend generations. Her abilities as a player, composer and radio host are the stuff of legend.

She made her living in a business that was tough on men and even tougher on women. She did have the benefit to marry Cornetist Jimmy McPartland which opened some but not many doors for her. He was stuck in Dixieland and she was more oriented towards the emerging bebop expressions. Her contemporaries then included Mary Lou Williams and Hazel Scott. She learned her lessons well, started her own trio and for seven years practiced her craft at the Hickory House. Her career spanned seven decades of modern music and she filled every decade with something special. The last time I saw her live was in Fort Lauderdale in concert almost twenty years ago. The first time I saw her was in New York in a small club in 1960. I was eighteen and could drink legally. It was a real treat to drive the ninety miles from Philly to New York and go club hopping in those days and my buddies and I did it frequently.

Prior to the CD and MP3 revolutions, one of the pleasures of driving through rural areas (especially in the South) was not being forced to listen to the commercial stations. There was always NPR. I discovered her program, Piano Jazz, in 1979 on a family vacation to Florida and was hooked ever since. It was bound to happen because my dial was and still is always set to the extreme low end of the FM band which is where all of the real good stuff is. She always had remarkable guests and one of her greatest assets was her ability to not overshadow them and let them shine. She always played the straight man to the guest and the conversations were remarkable. Piano Jazz was the longest running cultural program ever on PBS, now in its thirty fifth year. She actually retired from the program in 2011 but it still goes on, and programs that originally aired in the 80’s don’t seem dated at all.

Her guests spanned the history of modern music and included famous musicians other than piano players as well as singers. Some of her more interesting guests included Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello and Boz Skaggs and those programs were equally entertaining as the ones with famous piano players. Some of her programs stayed with you. I remember Bill Evans giving a piano lesson on air on playing around the melody as though Marian were his student. I also remember Michael Feinstein talking about How Ira Gershwin detested what both Bunny Berrigan and Frank Sinatra did with his lyrics to I Can’t Get Started. Ira was very particular about how his songs were sung, which I found interesting, because his brother George marveled at his music being improvised. One program featuring MJQ co-founder John Lewis featured a duet on Lewis’s composition Afternoon in Paris which has a non-traditional chord change that she screwed up and you can actually hear it. She recovered well and the conversation afterwards featured Lewis explaining the change. It’s embarrassing because it’s the same kind of change that Thelonius Monk used in Round Midnight and Randy Weston used in High Fly. Oh well, that’s the beauty of one take live performance.

RIP Marian McPartland. Thank you for the countless hours of pleasure you gave us over the years. Thank you for your devotion to the arts and for your constant desire to keep the music relevant. Thank you for being (like me) a devotee of Alec Wilder who wrote this beautiful song: While We’re Young

Central Florida Unions Say No to the TPP

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By Jerry Waxman

Remember that old 1956 movie, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the giant seed pods were replacing real people with non human things that looked like people as they slept? Remember Kevin McCarthy’s frantic warning (“They’re here already! You’re next!”) as he bounced about in traffic? That movie was a thinly veiled warning against communism which was a very popular sentiment during the McCarthy (no pun intended) years. No need to be alarmed. Communism would never take hold here because we were a free people, free to choose how we lived…….or so we thought. More rightly, the movie has become prophetic because if we substituted the words “Multinational Corporatism” it doesn’t sound so horrible but it accomplishes the same goals. Guess what? Communism was never the enemy; totalitarianism was. We are about to experience totalitarianism of a different kind, a totalitarianism so absolute that even our government, at all levels, will be powerless to stop it. It’s called the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP and our government wants us to be a part of it.

We’ve been asleep as a nation since Ronald Reagan’s election as president. That was the beginning of trickle down economics, union bashing, privatization and the consolidation of corporate power on a global basis. The economic elites see the billions of our tax dollars pumped into our highways, schools and other government services and they think to themselves that they need a piece of the action. Governments don’t make anything; they contract it out to builders, auto manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, clothing manufacturers, etc. Private industry already supplies the government with everything it needs but these people want more and our elected officials are willing to let them have it because we haven’t been holding them accountable. President Obama even alluded in his State of the Union speech to fast tracking the US efforts to join the TPP. Fast tracking is a method of escaping accountability in the US congress. The method failed on NAFTA during George H. W. Bush’s administration and NAFTA had to have a full hearing during the Clinton administration. The lessons learned from NAFTA and other free trade agreements should steer this country clear of any of those agreements in the future. I’ve written previously on the TPP in two articles, The Enemy Beneath, and You Have been Granted a Rare Privilege, the former about the dangers of the TPP and the latter about a forum in which Congressman Alan Grayson as well as other leaders spoke out. There’s no need to cover it again.

Jim Howe is a man on a mission. I first met him almost two years ago when he moved here from Midland Texas, where he was an activist, at about the same time that Occupy Orlando was starting up. He is a member of the Communications Workers of America local 3108 and his politics are decidedly progressive. He is active in the local Green Party and through his influence and efforts I got to spend a lot of time with the Green Party 2012 candidate for president, Jill Stein, who had a profound effect on me. Jim is a political activist first class and his mission these past 10 months has been to rally union and political opposition to the TPP. His efforts are starting to pay off.

At the recent AFL-CIO Central Labor Council meeting on August 14, during a hotly contested officers election meeting, Jim was able to get everyone to agree to sign on to an opposition resolution showing Central Florida labor’s stance on the TPP, prior to the elections. He also is active in Floridians Against the TPP and works closely with Public Citizen and the Citizens Trade Campaign. The Citizens Trade Campaign has crafted a letter to Congress with support from numerous groups to stop the fast tracking and the TPP itself. The letter itself hasn’t been updated since March, but Central Florida Labor was signatory to it even then.

Although it is not written about by the mainstream press in a large way there are several articles and actions popping up if you care to look for them. Most recently progressive blogger, Jim Hightower, wrote extensively and expressively on the subject. The one question we all ask ourselves is why the secrecy? How come there’s no real outrage? Are we so used to being ignored and abused by our leaders and corporations that we just meekly accept whatever crumbs we receive? Not where Central Florida Labor is concerned. With men like Jim Howe taking leading roles in keeping up the opposition this battle is far from being over. Howe wants everyone to know that the next planning meeting for action against the TPP will be held on Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm at CWA union hall, 2220 Edgewater Drive in Orlando. Be there, because if you’re not “you’re next!”

Six Not So Angry Women

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By Jerry Waxman

 Scales

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts……”

 

As You Like it by William Shakespeare

 

Prologue

I’m often fascinated by the way life imitates art, or how art reflects life in many ways. Shakespeare’s brilliant discourse on the seven ages of man and our pre-ordained existence is quite apropos to what has been happening in Florida as relates to the George Zimmerman trial. Let’s think in terms of how this whole experience would make a good (or bad) play and let’s call it The Death of Trayvon Martin.

Act I

Scene 1

 

At rise the stage is dark. The sounds of a struggle can be heard and then a gunshot goes off. Lights go up to reveal George Zimmerman holding a gun and Trayvon Martin’s lifeless body on the ground. Blackout.

 

Scene 2

 

This is the exposition scene. What we hear are disembodied voices screaming for an investigation until two characters appear on stage. These two members of the press will introduce all players in the drama and all timelines through their conversations until the March rally. Blackout

 

Act II

Scene 1

 

The Rally. All speakers including Sanford’s Mayor and Congresswoman Corrine Brown who came to his defense when the crowd turned ugly.

 

Scene 2

 

The Town Hall meeting in Sanford the following Monday

 

Act III

 

Scene 1

 

Events leading up to Zimmerman being charged with Second Degree Murder.

 

Scene 2

 

Again the press providing internet chatter from both Zimmerman and Martin supporters, complete with wild conspiracy rumors, racism comments, character assassinations and speculations leading up to the trial.

 

INTERMISSION

 

Act IV

Scene1

Jury selection

 

Scene 2

The prosecution

 

Scene 3

The Defense

 

Scene 4

Closing arguments

 

Act V

Judges charges, deliberations and verdict.

 

Basically this is just an outline. We can certainly judiciously edit the script down to perhaps three or even two very long acts, just using some pertinent dialog and edited speeches during the trial phase. Jury deliberations are another matter because there’s no archive of them, but the most important parts of this drama are the jury selection process and the judge’s charging of the jury.  Why do I feel this way? That’s simple; the trial was a manipulated process weighted in favor of the defendant. This is not peculiar to this case. It’s just the way the self defense laws are written, exacerbated by the fact that any hard evidence in this case is weak. There were no reliable eyewitnesses that could actually point fingers, nor was there any forensic evidence that showed exactly what transpired. Only three things are indisputable: George Zimmerman carried a gun and got out of his car when advised not to and Trayvon Martin was walking home in the rain so he put his hood up. Since the judge disallowed lots of background evidence on both individuals there’s no way of knowing how the jury would have reacted. The judge and the prosecution both were determined not to make this trial about race, which is almost impossible, yet the defense constantly fed into their fears in summation.

The special Prosecutor, Angela Corey, is also to blame for overcharging Zimmerman. Even though many feel this was a racially motivated incident there was no hard evidence that could prove it and she knew that. She had just sent Marissa Alexander to jail for 20 years for firing a warning shot to keep her husband from beating her. Many experienced Jacksonville lawyers said that the case should never have been prosecuted. Corey also overstepped her bounds by overcharging Zimmerman with Second degree murder. No wonder Rick Scott appointed her; she was the perfect person to weight the trial in favor of the defense. All the state wanted to do is get this mess out of the way and none of Trayvon’s supporters could criticize her for doing exactly what they wanted her to do.

Since this is supposed to be a play, let’s look at the reactions. During the trial itself there were several witnesses whose testimony was at best vague. Compare that with the movie and later a play, Rashomon, which tells the story of three different very clear eyewitness versions of a murder as well as the victim’s version told through a medium.  None of the testimony matches up with any of the others and all different stories are told from personal perspective. Basically, everyone’s testimony is given in their own self interest regardless of what is true. The crucible of the courtroom is the ultimate drama, but only if the evidence is so overwhelming or revealing that the jury cannot ignore it. The real drama here is in the jury’s deliberations and how they arrived at their decision. The best example of this is Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men which was first presented as a live TV drama in 1954 on CBS’s Studio One. Henry Fonda was so impressed with it that it was rewritten as a screenplay in 1957 that starred Fonda. It was also rewritten as a play in 1964.

It’s a pretty accurate description of how jury dynamics can work. In the original versions race does play a part in the deliberations as the defendant was described as Puerto Rican and referred to as “Those People”. Upon seeing the movie again a few weeks ago my reaction to the eyewitness testimony by an elderly white man that the defendant threatened the victim was imagined more than real because in the mid fifties that conversation would not have been in English. This jury was all white men and all native born save one European immigrant. Later versions would include mixed races including Ossie Davis, Dorian Harewood, Edward James Olmos and others, However, I digress. The jury deliberations bring out the attitudes and prejudices of all the members and how they react to new revelations until the final verdict.

One pivotal point in the movie involves Juror #8 (Henry Fonda). Juror #8, who was the lone not guilty voter, is discussing the murder weapon and showing that knives of that kind could be purchased anywhere. The script doesn’t reflect that part of the judge’s instructions to the jury is “not to play detective” and stick to the facts as presented. I’ve served on juries and have been told by the judges not to visit the crime scene or look for my own clues, so that struck me as odd, but it is critical to the outcome of the verdict because several jurors were led to believe that only the defendant had a knife like that. I also agree that a juror should be a detective as much as possible if they are truly seeking justice. Through steady logic Juror #8 convinces several others that there is reasonable doubt (especially for first degree murder). Eventually, Juror #8 and the converted jurors start convincing the others that their preconceived biases are standing in the way of a just verdict. The result, of course was not guilty.

According to reports on the Zimmerman jury the original vote was three for acquittal, two for manslaughter and one for second degree murder. But let’s look at the jury. Five white women and one of mixed blood hardly consists of a proper jury of one’s peers but under Florida law anything less than a capital case allows it, and the defense took full advantage of that fact. Perhaps one African American male on that jury might have made a difference but the defense never would have gone along with it and it never looked like the prosecution even cared. In summation, Mark O’Mara asked the jury to use their common sense and NOT connect the dots and they bought into it. It seems proper that people with common sense would connect the dots in seeking a just verdict. It was a setup for his pursuit of selling them the fear of the other. Let’s call it discrimination rather than racism because in Zimmerman’s mind Martin did not look like he belonged in that neighborhood. Juror #B37 bought into the scenario as did two others. Juror #B29, the lone non white did not.

During deliberations she was persuaded finally to vote unanimous for acquittal for the most part based on the judge’s instructions. That’s an absolute cop out. She should have hung the jury. If her heart tells her he’s guilty then she should have stood by her guns (no pun intended) no matter what the judge said. It’s not a crime and she can’t be prosecuted for it and she could have thrown the whole mess back to the state, which is where the mess deserves to be. If Zimmerman had been convicted on any charge he would automatically appeal the decision anyway, but at least for the time being he would not be free to come and go. Had that happened perhaps a more representative jury would be deciding Zimmerman’s fate in the future.

Epilogue

 

We all watched this drama unfold. Some of us watched all five acts and some of us only watched parts of the trial on the periphery.  All of us have opinions based on what we either know or believe. Was the verdict just? Was the trial fair? Do society’s discriminatory attitudes play a part in this? If you think things are wrong how do we go about fixing them?  A.R. Gurney, in his brilliant satire, The Fourth Wall states that plays don’t change the world. Well, don’t you believe it. Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw and a host of others have been changing the world, in tiny increments since the dawn of drama. Plays arouse our curiosity. They are not intended to provide answers; they are intended to raise questions. The answers have to come from us.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

 

The Tempest by William Shakespeare  Act IV, Scene 1

The Time Is Now

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By Jerry Waxman

The Time is now, and not tomorrow, to find that we can cure our sorrows…….

The Time is Now©   by Jerry Waxman 1960

It’s the first line of a song I wrote 53 years ago on the death of Billie Holiday. I never finished the lyric. Perhaps someday I will.  What’s that got to do with the subject matter at hand? Very little, but it is the right title, and while we’re on the subject it has a lot to do with what’s going on in our country.  Billie Holiday’s untimely demise was the result of her lifestyle, true enough, but the establishment’s treatment of her had as much to do with her dying as it did with Trayvon Martin’s death, as well as the plight of Walmart and all minimum wage employees being considered interchangeable and throw away people.

Recently in Orange County Organize Now sponsored a petition drive to get paid sick time on the ballot, which was successfully quashed by unscrupulous maneuverings in County Commission chambers with a lot of help by the Chamber of Commerce. The State of Florida got into the act by passing a law preempting local government control of the issue and was signed by the governor, whose name makes me too nauseated to mention.  Item in last week’s news: Measles discovered in Orange Co visitor from UK.  What restaurants or tourist attractions did this person visit? Did your food server serve this person? Lots of questions; few answers. But wait! There is someone on the scene who wants to do something about it, and he wants to do it now.

Monday evening, July 29 at 6:00 PM Congressman Alan Grayson (D Fla. 9th Congressional District) held a packed town hall meeting at Barry University School of law, where the crowd was well over 200 people and not an empty seat in the room. The overall subject was workers rights. In his discussion of the minimum wage he wanted it raised to at least $10.50 an hour from its current $7.25 per hour. “I want America to be number one not just in military spending, not just number one in the number of people incarcerated, but number one in wages, number one in benefits and number one in a strong middle class” said Grayson, and he backed up his statements with facts and figures that show that businesses would not suffer, as well as the economy would actually improve. Citing a history of the minimum wage, Grayson proved that the age old argument of lost profits is bunk, pure bunk. He was backed up in his statements by Political economics professor Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dr. Wicks-Lim showed through graphs and charts the impact of the minimum wage dating back several decades. Here’s the video of his speech.

Grayson, in a humorous moment of self deprecation played up the story that Salon.com has named him the most effective member of Congress, citing that he has had more amendments passed (5 out of 20) than any other member on either side of the aisle. This is not the bombastic and outrageous Alan Grayson 1.0 of 2008. This new Alan Grayson 2.0 is almost statesmanlike in the way he talks and deals with people, and he has managed to find allies across the aisle who have helped him get his amendments passed. Nor does he just follow the party line; he is fiercely independent  He has written the White House of his intentions to vote against any bill which would cut Social Security and Medicare and under no circumstances would he support chained CPI. He also defied the White House in demanding to see the documents on the Trans Pacific Partnership, which the White House supports and wants to fast track. The public Alan Grayson is getting close to the real Alan Grayson which was not the case four years ago. Yes, he is wealthy and it is no crime. He took a phone business public and profited by it. Something his opponents advocate yet resent him for. His parents were teachers at a time when teachers were not well paid, so he knows the plight of the middle and lower classes and he has the fortitude to stand up for them.

Other themes that Grayson touched on were the Walmart firings of employees who stood up for their rights and paid vacation days. Two of the fired Walmart employees,  Lisa Lopez and Vanessa Ferreira both spoke on their actions and firings. Grayson also noted that among all of the industrialized countries of the world the US was dead last in vacation days.  Noting that countries like Germany who has one of the best economies in the world not only pays much higher wages than we do, but also gives almost a whole month of paid vacation days. Grayson also noted that, by law, big corporations in Germany must have at least two workers on their boards of directors.

During the question and answer period Grayson took and addressed questions on Florida’s failure to adopt the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid. He also took questions relating to the County Commission paid sick leave fiasco, wage theft and his refusal to allow privatization of TSA security personnel at Orlando’s airport. here’s the  complete video of the Q & A. Considering the evolution of Alan Grayson from 2008 through now, I can’t wait for  Alan Grayson 3.0 to be introduced.