Columns

Helping Black Students Shine

November 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Lately I’ve been thinking of Black kids, Black students, specifically. Thinking of all the teachable moments out in the universe that I would call on to help them shine if I were in the classroom during these times.

And the first thought that came to mind is I would turn them on to what it means to be Black at this very time.

We’d talk about what we’d all just seen this past NBA season, superstars flying through the air slamming monstrous dunks and shooting rainbow 3’s with “Black Lives Matter” sewn into their jerseys.

We’d talk about the significance embedded in a Black woman taking on the role of Vice-president of the United States, the first of her gender to serve in such a capacity.

We’d talk about how Black voters showed up in large numbers, essentially rescuing a drowning democracy.

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Just Another COVID Power Trip

November 19, 2020 by Ed Decker

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

I received a few moderately angry emails in response to the tone my last column. The emailers believed I was downplaying the mortal dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the record, I am not against all the measures taken, however I do worry that the harm of these rolling shutdowns may exceed the harm of the virus – not the least of which is relinquishing too much power to government. And shortly after the writing of that column, I had an encounter in a bar and grill that reinforced my concerns.

November 7, 2020 (Red Tier) – With my trusty disposable mask (that I never dispose of) firmly affixed, I asked the hostess if a seat at the bar was available. I knew it was a long shot but the bar is my natural habitat and I really didn’t want to sit alone at a table. As expected, it was full, so she sat me a shorty in the dining room.

Given its low height, I’m guessing it was a wheelchair table, which wouldn’t normally be a problem if the chairs had been short too. However, all the other tables were cocktail tables, and the only seats available were bar stools. Whatever, I thought, these are the times in which we live and ordered an Ultra because, you know, I have my modeling career to consider.

While sitting on my tall stool hunched over my short table taking sips from my tasteless, beer-like beverage, I scoped the bar which was about 15 feet away. So close and yet so far,

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It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

November 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

by Ernie McCray

I’m so proud
of Arizona,
my home state,
for the mood I’m in.
For something
other than
its beauty
which I’ve basked in
since who knows when,
having hiked among its
Saguaros
and along the lovely trails
in Sabino Canyon,
in the Old Pueblo
when I was a little boy
not many years old;

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America, Who the Hell Are We?

November 9, 2020 by Ernie McCray

America, Who the Hell Are We?

by Ernie McCray

Whew!
Wow!
What a ride!
I was about
to explode inside!

I mean
as a dreamer
I had thought
this election
was going to be taken
in a landslide,

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Moments of Sheer Joy

October 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Being a bit squeamish in this pandemic I hadn’t seen my family in a while but I saw some of them the other day in a neighborhood park.

Maria, my beautiful sidekick, and I were the first to arrive. And I had no idea when my offspring would appear as we are “see you when I get there” kind of folks.

So, I stretched my long self out in my beach chair and just scoped the scene, chuckling at a few squirrels playing “Stop and Go,” watching as children ran to and fro and I smiled and waved a “Hello” at a couple of passersby I know.

And then I looked up and saw Nyla, one of my twin daughters, coming towards me and shortly afterwards Tawny, the other half of the duo, drives up with her children, Lyric and Marley, and her sister’s little girl, Indigo.

Then my youngest son, Carlos, came and we were all good to go and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt, in my life, more sheer joy than what I felt in my moments with them that day, not to mention we were there basically on time – so there was no lost time.

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October 23 – a Bittersweet Day for the Widder Curry

October 23, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

Before I get into this more fully, I would like to thank all of you that gave me advice, gave me books, cited professionals as to whether or not I should attend my grandson’s wedding today. I truly appreciate all of the comments that were made – both negative and positive!

The day is now upon me and the decision to attend – or not attend – has been agonizing. I have 18 grandchildren (including a few “greats” in that number.) I am very close to all of them and talk to them frequently. Landon, the groom, is a twin and I attended his brother’s wedding just two years ago. Landon’s “best friend” – Tiffany, whom he will marry today, has been like a member of our family for at least 5 years, when the two of them began dating. I attended her graduation when she received her Master’s Degree, and I count her in as one of the aforementioned 18.

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Feeling Warm and Sunny

October 22, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Feeling Warm and Sunny

by Ernie McCray

It’s such a warm
and sunny feeling
to sense
human progress
in the air
like the other day
in a Zoom meeting
with a few athletes
at the U of A
about inclusion,
human beings being
valued for who they are,
me sharing
how, in my day,
there was little to no interest
in social
or political change,
how we athletes, in the main,
just played our games.

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Is the American Right Winning the Long War With Amy Coney Barrett?

October 19, 2020 by Jim Miller

Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett Despite GOP’s Potential Big Loss in 2020 Electoral Battle

By Jim Miller

With all the ink spilled and word hoards unleashed on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, perhaps the only person who really clarified the big picture significance of her likely confirmation was Christopher Leonard, the author of Kochland, who put Barrett’s nomination in the context of the billionaire Right’s long war against democracy. In his New York Times column, “Charles Koch’s Big Bet on Barrett,” he explains how:

Since the early 1970s, Mr. Koch has sought to dismantle most federal regulatory institutions, and the federal courts have been central to that battle. In 1974, Mr. Koch gave a blistering speech to a libertarian think tank, called the Institute for Humane Studies, in which he outlined his vision of the American regulatory state, and the strategy he would employ over the ensuing decades to realize that vision.

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How to Handle Customers Who Refuse to Wear a Mask

October 15, 2020 by Staff

Straight-up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed,

As a manager of a [501(c)(3)] non-profit organization, I am frequently confronted about us enforcing our state’s mask mandate. We will refuse access to our building to anyone if they will not wear a mask. . . I have been called names, screamed at, and even threatened. My question is how as the manager can I politely tell them to fuck off?

Sincerely, Barbara Curry
Cherryville, NC

Thanks for the question Barbara. Even though I have never been in a position to enforce a mask mandate, I have seen many-a YouTube video featuring customers throwing anti-mask tantrums so I do have an idea about what you, and others, are going through.

Now, I’m not going to get into the controversy over mask-wearing itself – whether it is unconstitutional for the government to mandate them, or if the COVID risk has been exaggerated or even if the pandemic is a straight-up hoax concocted by our alien overlords – because none of this matters when it comes to private organizations such as yours. Every privately-owned business, including a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has the right to refuse service

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Meet the Newest Residents of Sunset Cliffs

October 14, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They heard it was a great place to vacation – food is plentiful; many different kinds available, although they might have to look for it under mounds of trash being deposited by other vacationers, residents, dog walkers, etc., but it a great place to raise their children, and their children’s children.

Sometimes it is pizza, sometimes it is hamburger, sometimes it is even dog food or food that has been left for the birds. Sometimes the bounty is so good that they can survive for days.

And how does all this wonderful food come to Sunset Cliffs? To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning – “let me count the ways.” There are tourists that come to the Cliffs to watch the sunset and leave their trash behind. There are locals

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Pray for Trump?

October 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Pray for Trump?

by Ernie McCray

There are folks praying
for the president
to get well
and I can only exclaim,
“What the hell?”
considering that
when I got word that
that he had covid
after he has recklessly
in line with his modus operandi
laughed at it
and scoffed at it
and lied about it,

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From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

October 6, 2020 by Ernie McCray

From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

by Ernie McCray

Hey, you Wildcats!
I write this
after co-hosting
a fundraiser
for a candidate for City Council
in my town
who’s totally devoted
to social justice
and equality
for everyone
no matter their ethnicity,
color or creed
or background.

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I Really Don’t Care Do U: The Trump Morality Play in Full View

October 5, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

“I Really Don’t Care Do U” read the designer jacket that Melania Trump wore in June of 2018 when visiting the New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas that housed 55 kids, including those separated from their parents as a result of President Trump’s draconian immigration policy. Of course, last week, we all learned that our worst suspicions at the time were correct as a new tell-all book by the First Lady’s now ex-friend and senior adviser reveals that she was less concerned about the children’s fates than the fact that they made the Trumps look bad while she was slaving away on her onerous Christmas work.

As CNN reported, Mrs. Trump whined at the time:

“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”

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The Twinkle in My Eye

October 2, 2020 by Ernie McCray

The Twinkle in My Eye

(Poem for My Youngest Grandkids)

by Ernie McCray

You guys
are the
twinkle in my eye.
And speaking of eye
hardly a day goes by
that I don’t,
in some moment,
see you all
in my mind’s eye:

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Musings of the Widder Curry

September 29, 2020 by Judi Curry

By Judi Curry

I received an email today from an even older gentleman this morning that stated, “Morose – not suicidal.” He went on to say that he finds himself “sinking into a perpetual state of quiet desperation” due to the political situation affecting this country.

The sad thing about his note to me and others, is that this is not the only piece of mail that I have received with the same message. I have read messages that start “since the death of RBG, I have been both depressed and/or angry.” Or, ”I can’t sleep at night; I find myself angry and irritated over the smallest little things.” Someone wrote that “ . . a sound I used to like – crickets in the night – is driving me nuts.”

I belong to a group called “Nasty Women for Biden”. The thread of this group is the same as I have quoted above. The fear, the anger, the disbelief that all of this is caused by the political situation today. Thousands of women – and some men too I have noticed – are writing in and seeking confirmation that they are not the only one feeling this way.

As a female, I am appalled at the number of women I see at the trump rallies.

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Will We Ever Breathe Free?

September 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

We Black folks
always wonder
if we’ll ever breathe free,
like others of our species,
ever since
we, caught napping,
were snatched
from our homeland
as kidnappees
and stacked
in boats
as contraband
and dumped
in shacks
as un-hired hands,
spending our lives
standing rigidly
for centuries
bent over long cotton sacks

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Vote Yes on Proposition 15: Ignore the Corporate Lies and Put Our Schools and Communities First

September 28, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

With the economic and budgetary crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are anxious about upcoming budget cuts at the state and local levels that will harm education and local services. It can be a helpless feeling waiting for the shoe to drop, but, in this case, with Proposition 15 on the ballot this November 3rd, there is something we can do about it—pass Prop 15 and bring billions of dollars of new, ongoing revenue into the system.

Proposition 15 will require that commercial property valued at more than $3 million be reassessed at fair market value every three years.

  • This closes a loophole that large corporations have used for decades to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes.
  • The richest 10% of corporate properties will provide 92% of the revenue.
  • Prop 15 specifically exempts all residential properties and agricultural land, maintaining full Prop 13 protections for homeowners, renters, and agriculture.
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Caster Semenya, a Gift of Nature

September 23, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

One of my favorite athletes is Caster Semenya.

As a former half-miler I love the way she comes off that last 200, so strong, yet relaxed, at a pace the other runners totally lack.

As we used to say: “She can step, Jack!”

But people in the world of track have barred her from running track – unless she undergoes surgery or takes drugs to regulate her high testosterone levels – to “level the playing field,” not taking into consideration that, no matter how they feel, Caster Semenya is still a woman.

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The Billionaire Bonanza Amidst the Pandemic Exposes Greed and Political Cowardice in Washington, D.C. and California

September 21, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As the bad news keeps rolling in for ordinary Americans with the pandemic dragging on with no real hope in sight for months at best, and any new economic relief stalled out in Congress with the Republican majority refusing to move on “blue state bailouts,” it is abundantly clear whose interests our leaders in Washington actually care about—not yours. Indeed, the wrecking crew in the White House and the Senate have never been more openly honest about their disdain for the well-being of the majority of Americans.

When it comes to emergency aid for the suffering, the response from the Republicans is resounding: F**** off and die.

Why should they be worried? 200,000 dead and counting? Big whoop. Their real base is doing just fine. As the Guardian reported last week, the rich have never had it better:

The already vast fortunes of America’s 643 billionaires have soared by an average of 29% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has at the same time laid waste to tens of millions of jobs around the world.

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Ed Decker: How to Respond to Ugly Facebook Messages

September 17, 2020 by Source

Straight-up with a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear SWAT, One of the many complications COVID has brought into my life is that I am drinking at home and arguing on social media more than ever. This is a bad combination because the more I drink, the more aggressive and insulting I become. I tell myself to stop doing it, but once I catch a buzz it’s almost impossible not to engage. Any recommendations on how to quit doing this?

Devon,
San Diego

Dear Devon, indeed, I do have a recommendation. I don’t use Twitter much, but I have certainly done my fair share of FacedBooking. And it has gotten ugly: Angry messages flying back and forth; unfriendings piling up; and scoldings from onlookers who rightfully put me in my place.

“Damn dude, did you really have to tell that guy he was the offspring of a spiny lumpsucker and a retarded fungus beetle? That’s low, even for you.”

So yeah, I too vowed to quit FacedBooking— .

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Being Grateful for What I Can Be Grateful For

September 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I remember when
my grandfather
would talk to me
during those times
when the world’s
troubles and woes,
the likes of
extreme poverty
the fear of A-bombs
and Jim Crow
were keeping everybody
on their toes,
he’d say,
“No matter
how life was going,
you need to know
we’d best
be grateful
for anything|
we can be grateful for” so

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The Great Dumpster Fire Of 2020: What Will Be Left Amidst the Ashes?

September 14, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s that time again. The world is burning. The sky is hazy from smoke in the Southland, Bladerunner-orange over San Francisco, and a tenth of the state of Oregon is under evacuation.

I’ll try not to write the same column that I did last year during fire season.

Or the year before that.

Or the several years before that.

With the media screaming about these fires it finally seems that the “unprecedented” angle is having its last gasp. Gavin Newsom is sick of climate deniers, and the connection between the extreme heat and the fires seems to finally be unquestioned.

As I write this on a Friday afternoon, my friends and family in the Bay Area can’t leave their homes for fear of toxic air. Family in Portland are watching a megafire come their way.

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When I Think of Love

September 8, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

When I think of love,
I think of how
it has safely
taken me through
life’s dark clouds
and drowning seas
as well as through life’s joys
and well-earned victories;
I think of how love
has been sung
as “the only thing
that there’s
just too little of”
and being that that’s one thing
I’m truly certain of
I feel compelled
to speak to
all the madness
and sadness
I see to the right and left of me
in a society,
falling behind

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Labor Day in the Midst of a National Crisis: Dreaming of a Just Recovery

September 7, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day, but how many of us have any idea where the holiday came from or what it celebrates?

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City and was proposed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) at a time when American workers were struggling for basic rights such as the eight-hour day. The CLU moved the “workingman’s holiday” to the first Monday in September in 1883 and urged other unions to celebrate the date as well. The movement grew throughout the 1880s, along with the American labor movement itself with 23 states passing legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday. By 1894 Congress followed suit and Labor Day became a national holiday.

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Do We Call On Our Black Anger or Our Black Love?

September 3, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking of how my people have overcome so many things in this country. For centuries.

You name it, we’ve overcome it. But we just can’t overcome the anger that comes with being Black in this society.

It’s a Black anger, if you will, because it’s ours alone, a form of anger that’s always there, beneath the surface, like a low-burning flame that needs a rush of air to get it really going.

And, since it’s usually the actions of angry White folks that gives our anger oxygen, we can’t ever fully relax it because, in our experience, we never know when we might have to react to what a White person has done – to one of us. Or a number of us.

When it’s least expected.

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What Rough Beast Slouches Toward the White House to Be Reborn? Thoughts on the Contemporary Republican Party and the Future of America

August 31, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to know where to start. What did we learn from the GOP convention last week?

Nothing new.

We already recognize, to paraphrase Yeats, what rough beast is slouching toward the White House to be reborn. Other than heedless deregulation and reactionary white nationalism, Trump’s Republican party doesn’t actually stand for anything.

Of course those two things are of central importance for the shadow government of the radicalized rich who are the only real beneficiaries of the last four years

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Thoughts About ‘Being Black in Tucson, AZ’

August 25, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been a member of our group, “Being Black in Tucson, AZ,” for a little while now, commenting on a thing or two, but I’ve never introduced myself to you.

That being said I’m an 82-year-old dude who spent the first 24 years of his life “Being Black in Tucson, AZ.” Since then I’ve lived in San Diego which is just an hour away by plane and five hours away by car. I didn’t want to go too far. Because I dearly love my hometown.

For its physical beauty and power that make it a spiritual place for me: hiking trails in Sabino Canyon above refreshing pools and streams; powerful Sonoran winds that you can lean against; frightening monsoons that give the Santa Cruz River a chance to roar; majestic saguaros with their lovely blossoms.

For how far it has come since the Jim Crow days of my youth when people like me were limited as to when we could

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A Tale of Two Convention Weeks: Biden Acceptable Under the Circumstances?

August 24, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we gear up for the horror show that will be the Republican National Convention, a few thoughts on last week’s Democratic affair.

Those of us who, like me, think it is imperative to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election, breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when Joe Biden delivered the speech of his lifetime and signaled that he might just see himself as a candidate on the cusp of a New Deal moment. Clearly, he is right to view the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent economic disaster as a moment of profound threat and opportunity.

Biden is similarly spot on to point to the climate crisis and what we need to do to address it

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My Sunshine on Cloudy Days

August 17, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

To feed my spirit
every now and then,
in moments,
nowadays,
I find myself,
singing “My Girl”
like I’m on stage
with the Temptations,
because “hey,”
like David Ruffin
and them,
I’ve got a woman who
makes me feel like
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” too,

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Going Back to School in the Midst of a Global Pandemic:  Fear, Loathing, and ‘Virtual’ Learning

August 17, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to imagine a worse way to start a school year, from top to bottom. As with his dreams of a glorious economic “reopening,” President Trump’s authoritarian fantasy of forcing the nation’s return to school has backfired in a big way, with polls everywhere showing a majority of parents and students unhappy with the idea of being bullied into the classroom whether that be in K-12 or higher education.

Also, it turns out, that many local school districts have refused to play along, listening to public health experts rather than the go-back-to-work-and-die crowd. In places where schools have reopened, we were immediately greeted with outbreaks of COVID-19.

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