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Monthly Archives: May 2015

F..k the police, the racist pigs, the oppressive force of an oppressive society!

Watch the news and we hear this over and over in Baltimore and Ferguson. But the question is: do we want to perpetuate the narrative or do we want to closely examine the issues in our society and then honestly formulate solutions?

Do we want to be politically correct or do we want to get it right?

First, let’s give ourselves some credit. In the approximately two hundred-forty years The United States of America has existed, we’ve come from slavery to an African-American president. Not bad! We are the most prosperous nation ever and we are the most generous nation ever. In many ways we support the entire world, and even after wars, to a good extent, we help rebuild defeated enemies. We live in freedom, for the most part, unobstructed from being who we are and doing what we want to do. Really, you can’t ask for better.

I know! If you belong to one of the special interest groups or if your skin isn’t white you probably take exception to the paragraph above. Mainly that’s because things aren’t fair. Things have never been fair nor will they ever be. Even worse, many things in our society are wrong. But things that are wrong are now extremely complex issues and require calculated solutions, not simple adherence to and actions in accordance with an old, old narrative.

An example of this complexity is segregation. When segregation was legal it was simple because the lines of demarcation were clearly drawn. You stayed in your area or you broke the law and suffered the consequences. This is not to suggest in any way that segregation was good or right, etc. I’m only saying it was not complex. You knew quite clearly why you were segregated, what the law was and what the penalties were.

Shoot forward to 1992 when I started teaching in the Bronx, New York, a long time after Martin Luther King Jr. and “The Civil Rights Movement” and the onset of Affirmative Action and EOE Employers. The school I taught in was 99.5% Black and Hispanic and almost always I was the only white person in the room. The kids referred to where they lived as the ghetto. Why didn’t their parents move out of the ghetto? There were no gates locking anyone in.

Complexity! Today our public schools are more segregated than ever. Today is 50 years post segregation. Today is also 50 years after the war on poverty began. More than 22 trillion dollars has been spent on anti-poverty programs and yet the poverty rates in America and the demographics of the poor have remained virtually unchanged.

Why?

The answers are extremely complex. Again, using segregation as the example, the U.S. Supreme court will no longer touch a segregation issue since segregation is already illegal. Fait accompli! However, the de facto segregation of today is a result of economic freedoms, not something that can successfully be brought to the high court. Who is segregated now? The poor of all kinds are it, and actually they are a classic example of collateral damage.

To wit, President Obama has kept interest rates at 0%, or right there, for the past six years to help the economy recover. As a result of these low-low interest rates, the people with any money have put it in the stock market. The stock market has soared and those people have gotten richer and richer. The poor, even just the average guy with no money to invest, have lost ground. Obama hasn’t meant for them to lose ground. It was a side effect and they are collateral damage.

So, do we want to be politically correct or do we want to get it right?

The oppressive society narrative which pits black against white and poor against rich is too simple to be the cause or an answer to why, and it obfuscates the underlying issues of the matter. Does this narrative have any veracity? Of course it has some. But things have never been fair and they never will be. Ask that first person who didn’t get into medical school because of Affirmative Action. In this regard, ask a Jew who survived a concentration camp what a real ghetto is. In fact, ask that Jew what he/she ever did to be so persecuted.

My father-in-law used to say that human beings are by nature selfish and greedy. Looking at this statement would be a good start. Looking at politics is a subterfuge. Our politicians and the proponents of the oppressive society narrative perpetuate the problematic issues because they are innately part of them and the true benefactors of them. Look at their net worths, look at where and how they earn their income. Try to find anything they create in our economy that would benefit American workers.

Wait. Put on those hi-power binoculars. Nancy Pelosi, you know her, the “you have to sign it to see what’s in it,” lady, got 62% richer in net worth from 2008-2009, reporting a net worth of 34 million in 2009. Last year that net worth was about 198 million. How did she do this on a senator’s income? The quick answer to how she did it was Obama’s zero-interest stock market. And just to be fair, her boyfriend, Harry Reid, isn’t doing too badly either, nor is her nemesis John Boehner.

When all is said and done, are we courageous enough to really look at ourselves, to look deep inside ourselves for real answers? Are we courageous enough to look at our Civil Rights instigators, you know the non-tax paying Sharptons, like Al, or at our legislators, more than half of whom are millionaires for the first time in history? Are we courageous enough to see for real who they are and what they are actually doing beyond the 15 second sound bites they so calculatedly put out?

That’s where the answers lie to the questions which will truly determine our future as a nation and as a people, top down and bottom up.

So do we want to be politically correct or do we want to get it right?


AES

The other morning as I was getting ready to go out I heard talk on the news, AGAIN, about the president’s push to have everyone go to college, which is stemming from his push to make community college free for everyone. My first thought was:  why are we still having this conversation? A secondary thought was: if we pressed our children to learn what they were supposed to in grades K-12, they and their parents would be prepared to guide them after high school. But that is another issue.

Later, I heard that the top 20% of income earners in America pay more than 84% of all Federal Income Tax, and from what I’ve read in the past, I believe this is a kind number or an understated reporting. Nevertheless, by today’s report, the bottom 80%, which is most Americans, don’t pay any taxes. Some get refunds (whether or not they pay taxes) and many of this 80% are simply given things from the government. Since colleges must be paid, making it free to all is a misnomer because that top 20% will again have to pay.

But taxes, who pays them and entitlements are other issues too.

My colleagues and I at AE Stevenson High School in the Bronx pretty much knew that breaking the big schools into small schools would not “fix” anything and actually would not change anything much. In fact, it hasn’t. Stevenson now houses nine schools. Several have failed and are gone or in the process of being phased out and the ones remaining are hit and miss at best. The powers that be would have everyone believe they have done something wonderful in education and things are better. But the fact of the matter is that much of what actually occurs in the little schools is underground, hidden and kept so for the purposes of maintaining the illusion that schools are improving. The idea of fixing things was a charade being played upon the public by our leaders back then and it still is now, only now it goes all the way up to the presidency.

Back to everyone going to college.  Why?  Why is this being pushed at us? At Stevenson before it was broken up, we had an active auto shop. Students who were so inclined could graduate as auto mechanics or as ready for taking the state tests. The auto shop teachers boasted they had placed more students to work as mechanics in the Bronx than any other school.  More than this boast, they boasted that the nearby repair shops relied upon the school for manpower. The last I saw, labor rates at the auto shops were about $100.00 per hour and mechanics make more money than mid-level teachers. Why go to college?

My colleagues and I knew that the small school movement would kill preparing kids for the trades, which it did, which launched the later debate over how to make kids job ready, which led to some development of job-prep high schools. I have a Doctorate in Education, but the carpenter, plumber, electrician, mechanic and all other trades people I use because I have no trade skills make more than I do and many of them make more than I did even at top salary as a teacher in NYC. Why college? Why push the people who don’t’ want college to head there?

Whatever happened to the idea that you could be what you wanted in America?

When I started teaching, we taught a curriculum that prepared kids to be useful, productive citizens. It encompassed everything from college prep to learning a trade, and the kids, with their parents, met with guidance counselors to discuss their future. Education now is merely a government control issue like most big programs are. Make no mistake. That is what the push is about:  government control and power.

So we knew way back when that not everyone is meant to go to college. Not everyone wants to. We talk about the learning modalities—some kids are tactile and just great with their hands and want to use them in how they make a living. Typing on your computer hardly qualifies as using your hands. It is not politically correct to say that not everyone is suited for college because in our oh-so-careful world such a statement is construed as racist or sexist. In fact it is realistic.

Why are we still having the everyone-must-go-to-college discussion? Why is today’s Federal Government (and many State Governments too) insistent upon controlling more and more of our lives?

I believe we all know the answers if we look deep inside ourselves, and when we do this, we see that so many of the “rights” issues in effect take away rights and/or serve as cripplers to our individual initiative, creativity and well-being.


Most of that first day was unremarkable. After the introductions, Raul brought me over to Miguel, the day saucier. In retrospect, to him this was just a job. He had no sense of making the best sauces he could make and was happy with just making what he had to to get through the day. Of course I didn’t know this at the time and would only understand about quality and perfection once I became night saucier and wholly responsible for the station. The day saucier mostly made basics. He made the brown sauce, white sauce and basic chicken sauce in bulk and then anything that was on the lunch menu from the station. But really that was easy since almost everything came to the station just about ready. For example, if they had chicken pot pie on the menu, and they did sometimes, Arturo’s bakery made the crusts, Raul’s team cut the vegetables, Mario, the fry cook, blanched the vegetables and Andre’s cold food station cut the chicken breast, mixed everything together in the sauce inside the casserole dishes and cut the crust tops to fit the dishes. Then all Miguel had to do was warm the casserole dishes in the oven to serve them. No big deal! All the fancy specialty stuff was made by the night saucier.

Miguel put me to cutting vegetables, mirepoix for the sauces and stock pots and then a whole slew of julienne and brunoise for the garnishes for his menu items. They were not our menu items and they would never be our menu items; that was Miguel. And as I mentioned, when it came time for him to season the sauces or the specials, he sent me to the storeroom.

The scotch wore off pretty quickly, at least quickly enough for me watch Raul and Arturo conference. After their conference, Arturo came over and asked me about my union book. I told him I had it and would bring it and that I had been told by the union in Cleveland that all I had to do was go to the union here in New York and show them where I was working and they would transfer the book so I could simply continue checking off. He told me he would look into it but that I should bring him the book to see.

At 11:30 AM the whole kitchen stopped.  The hot food side and pantry people sat down for lunch. Raul’s people cooked up a full meal every day for the staff. The Garde Mangers worked through the staff lunch unless the head chef came in, at which point they would sit with the head chef as would Arturo. Any cooks who had orders had to stop eating and do the orders, but usually Jimmy would take care of them if they were simple.

Shortly after noon, the lunch service started. Since I was a roundsman, meaning a relief cook, and would work different stations to relieve the cooks for their days off, this was my only day of the week with Miguel. Instead of teaching me the service, he used me to cut the mirepoix and garnish for his next day’s work so he could take it easy for a couple of hours. I was young and stupid and happy to have a job. I took the opportunity provided by Miguel to learn knife skills which I determined within the first half hour of my working that day I sorely lacked. I would become very good with a knife but never was talented.  I was helped by already knowing how to cut meat.

About 2:00 we were pretty much done and were cleaning up. You guessed it!  Later on, on the days I worked with him, Miguel quit early and took a nap in the locker room while I cleaned up. The night people were coming in and I met Frank, the night saucier, with whom I was to work Friday and Saturday nights, Tony, the night floor chef who was on that day, Francisco, the night Garde Manger who would become a dear friend, and Sully, the intremédiare, or fry cook/ vegetable man. Later I would learn that Frank and Sully had stood next to each other (within ten feet with an aisle in between) and not spoken to each other for fifteen years since the time they’d had a fight. If Frank needed a vegetable refill from Sully, he‘d tell me to ask Sully or he would tell the floor chef.

Tony went straight to Raul and Arturo. They all had a conference and just when I was finishing changing into my street clothes, Tony met me in the locker room. He had a package for me and told me to stick it in my pants. It had steak and butter and shrimp in it. I told him I didn’t want it. He implored me to take it. I told him I didn’t steal. He told me it was coming to me for my work.

I took it to appease Tony and crept passed the timekeeper when I punched out. I didn’t have to do that since the timekeepers got paid off too, and I vowed that I would never take a package again. The next time I saw Tony, that was the first thing I told him. He said okay and my telling him that, although I didn’t know it then, was the beginning of my becoming Assistant Shop Chairman for the union in the hotel.