Sunday, August 29, 2010

President Obama: Why Are You Allowing Your Postmaster General to Run a Plantation?

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

President Obama: Why Are You Allowing Your Postmaster General to Run a Plantation?

The United States Postal Service is running a latter-day plantation. It's been documented by members of congress, and arbitrators, that the postal service is routinely falsifying employee clock rings, subjecting its employees to harassment, intimidation, and abuse, and forcing many of its employees to work between four and six hours a day without pay. Then, even though the Inspector General has documentation of the commission of  federal crimes in hand, the perpetrators are being allowed to walk away with impunity, and even being promoted.

Why are you allowing this to happen, Mr. President? Don't you know that this sort of thing more than offsets all the good that you're trying to do? While the corporate media hasn't taken an interest in this issue yet, this kind of blatant worker abuse isn't taking place in a vacuum. The United States Postal Service is the second largest civilian employer in the United States. It employs over 600,000 people, and they all know what you're allowing to happen to them, and so do their family and friends. That's a lot of people - and a lot of votes.

What's so curious about this situation is that your administration seems to be totally accepting of this abuse, and completely in the dark about what it's doing to your image. While you're hanging onto Glenn Beck's every word, you're completely ignoring a federal assault on the people who voted you into office. Then, speaking of audacity, you have your collective lips poked out because workers have the audacity to complain about it. In effect, you're asking your constituency to accept your position that, "Okay, so they're destroying one or two families - but we got you some healthcare!" That's not gonna fly.  We appreciate the healthcare.  It was quite an accomplishment, but what about protecting our Constitutional rights? The way we see it is if you're willing to ignore these kind of atrocities, you're not the man we thought you were - people are DYING!

The federal law is clear. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 reads as follows:

"Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both."

Congressman Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) called on the United States Postal Service to present a plan to fully reimburse postal workers for the wages they have lost as a result of managers manipulating their timecards." The congressman went on to say:

“It has been weeks and the hard-working employees at these post offices are still waiting for answers,” said Congressman Hodes. “The USPS should immediately present a plan to ensure that workers are immediately reimbursed for their lost wages, and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken. Those individuals responsible for cheating New Hampshire families out of hard earned wages must be held accountable . . . In May of this year, I wrote to USPS Inspector General David Williams requesting that his office investigate claims that the United States Postal Service had altered letter carriers’ timesheets on an electronic time system for the last six years. "

And Arbitrator Sherrie Rose Talmadge said in her December 2, 2009 decision that “[USPS] Management’s violations were so egregious over a period of many years that punitive damages were awarded to deter the service from further clock ring violations.”

As I've mentioned previously, President Lincoln was willing to go to war to end slavery on his watch, while you have it in your power to emancipate over 600,000 American citizens with a simple phone call. Yet, in spite of repeated White House contacts and extended articles written and posted on the Democratic National Committee website, you've failed to make that phone call. We want to know why?

I've also previously mentioned how much pride I took in supporting your campaign, both in my column, and through my very meager bank account. While the historic nature of your candidacy wasn't lost on me, I didn't support you simply because you are Black, however - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are also Black, but I didn't support either of them. I supported you because I was inspired by your pledge to usher in a change that I could believe in. Well, frankly, especially in the current matter, I'm not seeing that.

While I take great pride in your election, I vote with my mind, not my heart. So having a Black president is meaningless to me if he's not aggressively protecting the interest of ALL of the American people.

Another USPS Workplace Tragedy
by
Dr. Steve Musacco

On the morning of June 2, 2009, a city letter carrier went to work and reportedly fatally shot himself in the head in the locker room at a postal facility in Gastonia, North Carolina. The Gaston Gazette online news report stated that the "Gastonia Police are investigating an apparent suicide this morning at the post office. . . . One of the employees is inside dead from a gunshot wound."

Prior to my retirement from the USPS, at a former district I worked for, there were three suicides within a two year period that I concluded were contributed to in significant part by how these employees were treated in the workplace. The third employee, a city letter carrier, fatally shot himself in a postal jeep and left a letter stating that he could no longer take the job. The night before he committed suicide he told his wife he did not know if he would be able to handle his job anymore. How do I know? His wife told me this one day after his suicide. He was one of the best employees in the office. The District Manager and I interviewed his coworkers after his death, and they stated he would urinate in a bottle while on delivery route for fear he would not meet an artificial deadline set by postal management. During the interviews, one of the postal supervisors told the District Manager and me that the day before the suicide she gave a letter to all the city letter carriers in the station, noting that any future over time used for their routes would be considered unacceptable performance. The suicide at the Gastonia postal facility was the second since December 2005.

Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.

I define a toxic workplace environment as a workplace where there is a high incidence of stress-related illnesses. These stress-related illnesses are manifested by psychological and physical deterioration. In other words, these types of environments seriously erode employees' health and well-being. The primary factors contributing to a toxic workplace environment are high job demands, low job control, and low social support. Low social support generally entails a lack of respect and validation of employees' dignity by their "superiors". It also oftentimes includes organizational practices and methods that encourage the bullying of employees to meet corporate goals.

The name of the city letter carrier who committed suicide in Gastonia, NC on June 2, 2009 is Steven Spencer age 60. According to his obituary, Steven was married and leaves two daughters and three grandchildren. He was a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers/ and state representative for Muscular Dystrophy Association. He was the founder of the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive for Gaston County. He was very active in Scouting, attaining the highest rank of Eagle Scout. He also was a member of the Order of the Arrow. Steven was a veteran of the Vietnam War serving his country proudly in the US Navy.

I find it highly improbable that an employee will kill himself or herself in a postal facility or while on a postal route unless it is to send a clear message that a toxic workplace exists and the person can't handle it anymore. Sadly, it also may be a tragic attempt to better the lot of one's fellow coworkers by drawing attention to the tragic event itself.

Prior to Steven's suicide, I was contacted by a relative of an employee at the Gastonia post office in April of this year. She was concerned because of what she reported as a toxic workplace environment at the Gastonia post office, lack of accountability to address employees' concerns, and that the situation may lead to another workplace tragedy. Unfortunately, her worst concern became a reality on June 2, 2009. She further indicated several employees have resigned their positions at the office because of the toxic workplace environment and others were suffering from negative psychological and physical effects because of this environment.

I was told employees' attempts, mostly city letter carriers, to have their concerns addressed over a two-year period included: filing of discrimination complaints and grievances, unprofessional workplace assessments, town hall meetings, contacts to congressional representatives both locally and nationally, contacts to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and petitions to Charlotte postal District officials as well as to national representatives of the Postal Service and the NALC. She further indicated that none of these measures contributed to fully addressing the workplace environment or alleviating its negative impact for the employees at the Gastonia Post Office.

In order for the U.S Postal Service to become a safe and healthy organization and thereby prevent future workplace tragedies, which have been at an epidemic level over the past three decades, there is an urgent need for congressional intervention and legislation to address its toxic postal culture. Dr. Gary Namie and his wife, Dr. Ruth Namie, along with their colleague Dr. David Yamada, have for years pushed for such legislation at the state and federal level. In order for national legislation for the prevention of workplace bullying to have the intended impact, it would require sanctions to employers or their representatives who are in violation of a new workplace statute that defines workplace bullying as a harmful and illegal activity.


******

With that, we'll let the victims speak for themselves. The following is the text of a petition that went to Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Appended to the petition was six double-columned pages of signatures:

Dear Madam:

We the employees of the Los Angeles International Service Center, (LAXISC) formerly the Carson International Service Center of the United States Postal Service humbly request your office to inquire about the horrendous behavior, sexual harassment and physical intimidation practices of named manager, Raul Corona. This manager has been exiled from the facility on more than one occasion for extended periods and was referred to anger management because of his actions and conduct. Recently, he allowed one of his acting supervisors to kick an employee, then slap them in the back of the head and make remarks about her body parts, stating that it was so tight that a quarter could bounce off of it. These actions were witness by other employees who either gave statements or were willing to testify to the office of the EEOC as to what was witnessed. Mr. Corona took no action against the 204B supervisor but instead displayed his true disregard for the employee by confronting her on the work floor about her complaint against the supervisor. This is just one of the many egregious actions of Mr. Raul Corona.

A complaint was made to the APWU, American Postal Workers Union and charges were also filed with the EEOC which is being handled by the APWU building facilitator Donna Williams who is representing this complainant and numerous others involving MDO Corona. While this incident is currently under investigation and review Mr. Corona has had at least one of the witnesses brought into his office and threaten them with disciplinary action if they did not personally give him a statement after they had already spoken with and given statements to the union representative, and when they requested that a union representative be present during his personal investigation, they were denied, which is a direct violation of the Weingarten Act. ( see attached )

This same witness who has FMLA and receives chemotherapy for her condition (lupus) was directed to his office by supervisor Erma Harris and when the employee would not cooperate with his request not only did he threaten her with disciplinary action, he directed his supervisor Brian Ta to go into the time and attendance system known as TACS to remove her pay three days later after she had called in for FMLA leave which had been already approved by this same supervisor. Because of the numerous grievances and EEO'S that are filed and still pending against this manager and conditions being so toxic, employees have bidded to other tours for fear of retaliation which we believe will take place to all of us who have signed this petition.

And if these circumstances aren't demoralizing enough we have observed Mr. Corona engaged in an improper and unprofessional relationship with one of his acting supervisors (204B), which violates the Postal code of conduct and ethics prohibiting this type of relationship between a manager and employee which is still ongoing. He personally assist her with her job duties in front of other employees when she is not supervising and she has been observed leaving his office with her clothes disheveled which had to be pointed out to her by a union steward, and they have also been seen by other employees in compromising situations. The most recent, being seen exiting the Postal Inspectors cat walk door located at the southwest corner of the building, he zipping up his pants as she was buttoning her blouse.

We are asking that MDO Corona be sent to another facility LAP&DC permanently and to be taken off of the work floor entirely where he can be under the watchful eye of his bosses as was done before, because he has waged his own personal vendetta against any and all employees who file charges against him. Employees on all three tours at one time or another have had to disrupt their family and personal lives by bidding to other tours just to get away from this man. Attached you will find a copy of just one of the petitions that were filed against this manager starting in 2003 and a recent EEOC discrimination and personal harassment case that was charged and awarded against this facility for these type of practices .

If any additional information or facts are needed we are sure you can get the cooperation of the APWU union representatives both mailhandlers and clerks at the LAXISC.

We feel if something is not done about this manager soon, the conditions here will deteriorate further becoming more toxic and possibly escalate into something which the public and news media refer to as "Going Postal" which we are fearful of. We all have families to take care of and do not wish to come to work in an environment having to look over our shoulders fearful that something will happen that could have been avoided.

All signatures in regards to this petition can be verified through the APWU building facilitator Donna Williams. We would deeply appreciate your office's assistance in this disturbing matter.

Petitioners

The following, according to the petitioners, took place subsequent to the petition:

On Friday April 23,2010, employee Cloe Edwards was in serious physical distress having chest pains and requested 911. Mr.Raul Corona MDO told the employee he was not calling 911 for her because the Postal Service was not going to pay for the ambulance service and if she felt that bad, she should call herself which she wound up having to do. The paramedics from the Airport Fire Station # 95 on the corner of Century Blvd and International Road came and Ms. Edwards had to be taken out on a stretcher around 4:45pm.

Mr. Corona got belligerent with the paramedics telling them she was faking and started demanding her prognosis. The paramedics that attended to Ms . Edwards could not believe what they were hearing from this manager. She was taken to Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey where she was informed that her blood pressure had gotten so high that she was on the verge of either having a heart attack or stroke. She was then transferred to Kaiser Permanente in Bellflower.She was released Sunday evening April 25th. Ms. Edwards return to work Monday fearful that MDO Corona may try to take action against her.

She was given orders that she would not be allowed to perform her bidded duties as a general expeditor and would be working mail in IAAA. She is currently in the process of filing for leave under workman's compensation on the advice of the hospital.

******

Ms. JoAnn Snow

Ms. JoAnn Snow was the victim of repeated instances of forced labor and time fraud committed by her manager in the U.S. Postal Service. When I first became aware of it I was shocked, but not alarmed. I thought I could simply contact the OIG's office and have it, and the manager involved, taken care of. I was certain that the OIG would be anxious to investigate the matter and get the offending culprit out of their midst. But to my amazement it not only took two reports, but over a month before I was even contacted on the matter.

Then when I finally was contacted and explained to the OIG inspector, Special Agent Reid Robbins, that a postal manager, Marcie Luna, was forcing an employee to work between four and six hours a day without pay, and was committing fraud by falsifying a government document and changing the employee's official clock rings to reflect a three (3) hour lunch that the employee wasn't permitted to take, I was essentially met with a yawn.

"And who are you? How do you know this employee?" Then after we finally got past what felt like an interrogation to determine whether or not I had a right to NOT mind my own business, Agent Robbins went on to explain that the OIG's office generally doesn't investigate time issues - which was a blatant lie (they just don't investigate it when the government is doing the stealing).

Then after giving the matter further thought, I began to ask myself, "What kind of crime fighting organization doesn't fight crime?" It is my understanding that the Postal Inspection Service investigate external crimes against the postal service, and the Office of Inspector General investigate internal crimes within the postal service. So if the OIG doesn't investigate the intimidation and coercion necessary to force an employee to work six hours a day for free, or the falsification of documents necessary to steal an employee's wages, the OIG must not consider employee abuse a crime.

So I attempted to contact Agent Robbins at the number he provided, but he failed to return my calls, even after six attempts. So I decided to leave a message on his voice mail asking him the following questions: 1) Whose office would handle the matter if the situation was reversed, and the employee worked only eight hours and falsified her time to be paid for twelve? 2). Whose office would handle the falsification of government documents? And finally, is he going to investigate the matter, and will anyone be held accountable for the commission of this crime?

I have yet to receive a response.

But it doesn't stop there. The next day the employee involved called to advise me that Agent Robbins had contacted her. She went on to say that he seemed to be more interested in how she knew me than he was the crime that had been committed against her. She also said his tone was aggressive and intimidating, and he told her that when she accepted the job of acting supervisor, working overtime without pay came with the job - another blatant lie.

The National Association of Postal Supervisors advised me that a certified supervisor can be required to work a maximum of 30 minutes without pay (in emergencies), 204Bs (acting supervisors) who are covered under various craft employee contracts must be paid for every minute they work. We know this information to be accurate because if it wasn't, it wouldn't have been necessary for the manager to falsify government documents to achieve her objective, to rob the employee.

But even worse than giving the employee inaccurate information, and failing to investigate the complaint, Agent Robbins also revealed both the complaint, and the nature of the complaint to postal management, and that's supposed to be confidential information.

As a direct result, this highly productive employee who has held the same position for over twenty-one years - longer in the same position than any other supervisor, manager, or postmaster in the Los Angeles district - has been demoted by a manager who didn't even entered the postal service until six years after the employee was a productive supervisor. And even worse, while the manager, Ms. Marcie Luna, who had recently been demoted from area manager herself, was informing the employee of her demotion, she allegedly commented to the employee, "I just want you to see how it feels when the postal service doesn't appreciate all that you've done for them."

What!!? Is this manager actually saying that she wants the employee to suffer because she feels that she's suffered an injustice? How was the employee responsible for the manager's demotion?

In the interest of full disclosure, I became personally (but objectively) involved in this matter because I know it to be particularly egregious based on my personal knowledge of the employee involved. It also speaks directly to an issue that I've been addressing in many columns and is of particular interest to me - the negative impact of America's new business model on the middle class. So while admittedly, I know the subject of this piece personally, the facts in this case alone clearly demonstrate the business community's full-throated assault on the America middle class.

The character of the manager and the agency's complete failure uphold the law and to protect the rights of the employee is revealed through the facts in this case, but what about the character of the employee?

Employee Background

I became involved in this case when the employee, Ms. Joann Snow, was acting unusually depressed. I became immediately concerned because I've known her for over twenty-five years, and what makes her most unique WAS her bubbly, Life's-a-bowl-of-cherries-type personality. Everybody loves her - especially in her workplace. Her superiors depended upon her because of her can-do, A type personality, and her subordinates would seek her out for council, knowing she could be depended upon to do the right thing (making sure they were properly paid, for example, or doing battle on their behalf with their immediate supervisors over injustices). In addition, she would donate her vacation leave every year to employees who became ill and ran out of sick leave, because she never found the time to take a vacation herself.

This woman was so highly depended upon by her superiors and dedicated to her job that for years she was working seven days a week just to cover their backs against any oversights. And since she had been in her current position for over twenty-one years - again, probably longer in one position than any other supervisor, manger or postmaster in the United States Postal Service's Los Angeles district - when the administrators needed any kind of information, or any issue addressed, in many cases they wouldn't bother with the station manager - those people would come and go - they'd wait until after 11:00 a.m. when Ms. Snow arrived so they could address the issue with her.

A former manager said the following:

"I was the Manager of Customer Service at Bicentennial Station in Los Angeles from 1997 until I retired in 2001. I was Ms Snow's manager during this time. Prior to coming to Bicentennial Station, the two previous managers, Lloyd Curtis and James Barnett had apprised me of Ms Snow's supervisory skills and total dedication to duty and company. Upon coming to the unit I was not disappointed and found all they had told me concerning Ms Snow was true.

"Ms. Snow was one of my closing and weekend supervisors. She had an exceptional knowledge of the overall operation and excelled at running a difficult unit and she required little to no supervision. She could be counted on to work beyond what was normally considered an average work day without complaint. She always finished her assignments no matter how long her day was extended and this included weekends. She has excellent interpersonal skills which you need supervising the diverse workforce at Bicentennial Station. Ms Snow exceeded my expectations relative to handling my business customers and resolving complaints. In addition to all of this, Ms. Snow would routinely call the office on her scheduled off day to see how things were going and offer her assistance if needed.

"Joanne Snow proved to be an invaluable asset and even now in retirement, I often think of her and thank her when I talk to her for helping make my tour at Bicentennial successful."

Eugene Jeffries

At this writing Ms Snow has voluntarily postponed a long needed vacation in order to train her own replacement so the postal service and the people they serve won't be negatively impacted by her departure. My response to that was to ask her if she was insane - but then, she lives by a different code of moral responsibility than I do.

So I think that answers the question of why our government, and particularly the postal service, is so dysfunctional. It's clear - because the wrong people are in positions of responsibility.

Regarding OIG Response

Agent Robbins handled this matter atrociously - both unprofessionally, and unethically. His actions in this matter is a perfect example of the government's gross hypocrisy in the way that it relates to the poor and middle-class in this country. While this government profess to be so appreciative  veterans, Ms. Snow's only son is a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Thus, while he's off defending this nation, his very own government is both robbing and abusing his single mother who he's left behind at home.

In addition, the OIG is thumbing its nose at the law of the land. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes the behavior of these managers a crime punishable by five years in prison, yet, while the postal service have offered to repay Ms. Snow thousands of dollars (the Labor Relations Manager said, "That's just the right thing to do"), her repayment offer was  based on her agreeing to drop her demand that the manager and area manager involved be fired.  Ms. Snow has refused the offer.  She said that she wants to set a precedent insuring that any manager or supervisor who steals from an employee must be fired. 

While an employee will be immediately fired, on the spot, by getting a coupon out of the trash and redeeming it at Walmart, managers who steal millions of dollars a day from postal employees across this country, do it with complete impunity. Currently, in spite of the fact that the postal service has documented evidence in hand, the manager involved stealing her time is still in place, and the area manager who Ms. Snow says she personally heard order the crime against her has been promoted!

So Ms. Snow said that allowing the agency to pay her a few thousand dollars to sweep her case under the rug will only serve to insure business as usual, and that's unacceptable.

So again, Mr. President, where are you, and where is that change that we're suppose to believe in?


Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Me-First" Attitude of American Politicians is Trashing the U.S. Constitution

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE


The "Me-First" Attitude of American Politicians is Trashing the U.S. Constitution

The founding fathers understood the dangers of vacillating public sentiment, so they established the United States Constitution to protect America from the ebb and flow of public opinion. The Constitution was designed to set in place a set of American values from which the nation should never deviate in response to public sentiment.

But the GOP and the Democratic Party are working hand-in-hand to undermine those standards - first, the GOP creates a toxic political environment to circumvent the people's common sense, then instead of defending the Constitution, the weak-kneed Democratic Party simply goes along in order to protect their political interest. This unholy alliance has been going on for nearly forty years now, and America has been racing downhill every since. The primary victim of this unholy alliance, is the rule of law - the very foundation of the Constitution.

Immediately after President Nixon resigned in response to the Watergate Scandal, instead of bringing Nixon to justice for violating the law, only his subordinates were jailed. On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford issued a full pardon, "In best interest of the American people," immunizing Richard Nixon from any further prosecution, and thereby corrupting the Constitution, and setting a precedent establishing a class of people who were above the law.

The American people were caught sleeping, but Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, two young politicians in the Nixon and Ford administrations, respectively, were wide awake, and fully cognizant of the ramifications of this new development.

Then on January 20, 1981, the newly elected Republican president, Ronald Reagan, entered office under a cloud of suspicion. On November 4, 1979, the American embassy was stormed by Iranian militants and they took sixty-six Americans hostage. The hostage crisis went on for 444 days, greatly enhancing Ronald Reagan's bid for president against President Jimmy Carter. Many believe that Reagan forces negotiated with the Iranians to hold the American hostages until after the election. That has never been proven, but what adds fuel to the allegation is that the hostages were released six (6) minutes after Ronald Reagan was administered the oath of office as the 40th President of the United States.

What has been proven, however, is that even though the Iranians were considered an enemy of the United States and had held sixty-six Americans hostage for 444 days, Reagan entered into a secret agreement with the Iranians to have Israel ship them military arms, then resupply Israel in return for payment under the table (treason). Reagan needed the money to fund the Contras in a war in Nicaragua in which congress outlawed funding under the Boland Amendment. Reagan also drummed up funding for the Contras by flooding the nation's inner cities with illegal drugs - an act of treachery that thirty years later, the nation is still feeling the negative effects.

While several of Reagan's high-level subordinates were convicted of conspiracy and obstructing justice ("So many White House documents were shredded that the White House shredder became choked"), the convictions of Col. Oliver North and John Poindexter were overturned on technicalities, and others who were convicted were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush - "in the best interest of the nation."

So, again, instead of impeaching Ronald Reagan and sending him to prison for his grossly unthinkable crimes, airports and an aircraft carrier was named after him, many Republicans began to hold him up as one of our greatest presidents - and once again, while America slept, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were watching from the wings.

So this "not looking back in the best interest of the nation" mantra is getting a little overworn and tiresome - not to mention being total nonsense. If Richard Nixon had been sent to jail for his part in Watergate, and Ronald Reagan and his gang had been made to walk the yard with him, chances are Bush and Cheney would never have dared to initiate their illegal war in Iraq that led to the death and displacement of over a million Iraqis, the death, and dismemberment of thousands of American troops, and the near bankruptcy of the nation.

America is on a toboggan hurling down a very slippery slope. Every political generation is taking the assault on the U.S. Constitution to the next level. We've gotten to the point where the Supreme Court is taking the election of our presidents out of the hands of the people, war crimes are simply being redefined as "enhanced interrogation techniques," and the freedom of religion is under serious assault.

Where will tomorrow's young demagogues take us? Yesterday it was a war on terror, today it's a war on Muslims, tomorrow it could be a war on Black Muslims, and the next day, a war on Black people in general. That doesn't seem as far fetched as it once did.

Wake up, Mr. President. It's 3:00 a.m., and reality is on line one.


Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

POPPI'S DREAM

POPPI'S DREAM

Well, Taylor,
Well, Trey,
You’re on your way,
To add to the Wattree Clan;
It’s my conviction, not hope, you will surely both,
Add a page to the sojourn of man.

You’ll be loved and nurtured to take your place,
In this world that you now belong;
And when we’re through, we trust both of you,
Will help make our people be strong.

You’ll be taught that knowledge is the key to life,
And to harvest its essence you’ll strive;
Then combine that knowledge with the wisdom of Solomon,
To help see our people survive.

Think not of what is politically correct,
Seek to be independent of thought;
For group-think, indeed, is not thought at all,
But that of which fools are wrought.

Embrace truth over all as your clarion call,
Make integrity your moral code;
And when life’s so tough you think it’s too much,
Allow God to relieve your load.

Make the God you trust the God of your heart,
And not the God of man;
For the God of man is man himself,
And only just when it suits his plan.

And look to the note that your poppy once wrote,
A withered vine ignored as benign;
Make my words come true, what I said of you,
And make my legacy whisper through time:

“Neither scholar nor the head of state,
The most common of men seems to be my fate;
A life blistered with struggle and constant need,
As my legacy to man I present my seed.

More fertile, more sturdy, they both than I,
This withered old vine left fallow and dry;
The nectar of their roots lie dormant still,
But through their fruit I’ll be revealed.”

Love,
Poppi

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Religious Right: A Threat to America (Reprise)

BENEATH THE SPIN · ERIC L. WATTREE
*
*
The Religious Right: A Threat to America (Reprise)
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When I became of age one of the first things I did was to reassess all of my previous beliefs and attitudes. Thereafter, I discarded as invalid anything that didn't stand up to logical and objective scrutiny, because even at that young age, I'd lived long enough to recognize that most of the problems in this world are a direct result of our failure to re-examine our illogical views of reality.
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Most religious zealots not only fail to go through that process, but refuse to as a matter of religious doctrine. It is due to that kind of zealotry, along with their doctrinal obligation against even considering the fact that they just might be zealots, that makes the religious right a clear and present danger to both the United States, and the world.
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Now, I don't have anything against religious people, per se - I was raised by Christians, and they were wonderful and loving people. In fact, I'm very spiritual myself. But if you show me a man who believes that Moses parted the Red Sea, I'll show you a man whose logical assessment of reality cannot be relied upon.
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Such people fail to realize that efficient thought require that we must first see reality as it is, and only then, as we would have it. But these people have a tendency to try to force reality to conform to what they want it to be, then demonize, and in many cases condone the slaughter, of others who they even suspect might view the world differently. Thus, it is primarily their kind of thinking that introduced into the world the related horrors of xenophobia, homophobia, racism, etc.
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And the GOP leadership is expert at dipping into this well. While most GOP leaders could personally care less about religion, the intolerance of religious zealotry is one of their most potent weapons. As we speak, they're mounting a combined campaign of racial intolerance against President Obama, religious intolerance against Muslims, and sexual intolerance toward gays. And to demonstrate just how virulent and un-Godly that campaign is, just tune in to FOX. The zealots are literally wallowing in their hatred like hogs in slop, even though it means possibly destroying this nation.
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And the irony is, these zealots don't really care about religion, at least, as it relates to God. If they did, they wouldn't be so mean-spirited, selfish, and wedded to the instruments of death. They insist on following the Constitution to the letter when it comes to their right to bear arms, but they're more than anxious to trash that very same document if it means they can take away the right of innocent people to love as they see fit.
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Another indicator of their mean-spirited hypocrisy is how they only embrace those tenents of their religion and/or patriotism when it promotes their point of view. Take school prayer, for example. Again, while these zealots are ready to lay down their lives for their Constitutional right to come armed to the teeth to a presidential assembly, they're prepared to ignore both the Bible and the Constitution when it comes to the separation of church and state.
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Matthew 6:6 says the following:
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"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
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Thus, according to Matthew, public prayer is not the proper thing to do (and by extention, I would imagine that God also wouldn't be impressed by the ostentation of flags and crosses being worn as lapel pins). But these zealots aren't interested in that scripture, because it neither contributes to their point of view, nor is it conducive to their campaign to demonize others.
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They also tend to conveniently overlook the fact that their entire concept of God is merely an accident of birth. If they'd been born in in the Middle East, chances are they would have been Muslims. If they'd been born in China they'd probably be Buddhist, or if in India, a Hindu or Sikh.
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That immediately suggests that religious doctrine is more a cultural manifestation of man than it is a dictate from God. So anyone who has surrendered his or her soul to any organization, be it religious or otherwise, and have a mind that is so closed to reality that they don't recognize that fact, makes me very nervous, because they're obviously more interested in hating others than they're into loving God. After all, the only reason that we're wasting young lives in Afghanistan is because we're trying to keep Pakistan's nuclear missiles out of the hands of religious zealots - and by definition, a zealot's a zealot, regardless to what country he's from. They're all out of touch with reality, whether they be Christian, Muslim, or Jew.
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One would think that any clear-thinking person would recognize that God - or Nature, if you will - provided us with a sense of ethics, common sense, and empathy to guide us through life. So man doesn't require a user's guide any more than birds require a calendar or map to fly South for the winter. And since ninety-nine percent of all the conflicts throughout the world involve a religious component, common sense should tell us that religious doctrine not only does NOT come from God, but indeed, represents the very darkest side of man.
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Think about it, with all of the organized religions throughout the world, and all of the billions of people who claim to love God, why is there so much cruelty, murderous atrocities and suffering in the world? Why is it that with all the collection plates being passed around, collecting billions of tax-free dollars in the United States, that there's any homelessness or suffering anywhere in this country? And most instructive of all is, why is it that the Bible belt was the birthplace of slavery, and the most bigoted part of this entire country?  Certainly bigotry isn't a part of God's will.
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I'll tell you why that's the case - because our religious doctrines are not focused on teaching us to love our fellow man. They're more focused on teaching us that other people who are unlike ourselves and have different beliefs are heathens. It is in our churches where we learn that God is on our side, and "those others" who don't look and think like we do are un-Godly and are going to be condemned by God to eternal damnation. No? I'd be willing to bet a years pay that some of these so-called "men of God"are condemning me right now for having the audacity to speak the truth.
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That's what makes it so easy for us to commit the most horrendous atrocities against others. Our religious leaders spend all of their time teaching us to "have faith" in what we're being told, and hardly any time at all teaching us to love our fellow man.
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Man's need to control the minds of the masses dictate that they focus on teaching us to be selfish, hateful, and fearful rather than loving and Godly. It's all about saving MY soul from the devil, and what God is going to do for ME, instead of what I'm going to do to make this a better world. After all, if I start spending my money on helping  my neighbor I'll have less money to give the church, and the church can't have that.
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Consider what man has told us to have faith in. Over the centuries we've been told such things as God wants us to burn young women at the stake because they're a little different. They told us that God wanted us to excommunicate Galileo and threaten other brilliant scholars with death before the inquisition for having the audacity to try to educate us and give us the benefit of their God-given brilliance. And why? Because their brilliance betrayed the erroneous thinking of church leaders who claimed to be getting their information from a direct pipeline to God. We see that very same Mindset today. Many church leaders dismiss the validity of evolution, even in face of the fact that every time we get our children vaccinated it validates the fact that man is evolving.
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When we're vaccinated we give our bodies a manageable dose of a disease. This allows our bodies to evolve to the point that it can tolerate a disease that would otherwise kill or disable us. But the church has a vested interest in discounting evolution, because new knowledge is often in direct conflict with their version of creation. Thus, for their own selfish reasons many religious leaders dispute evolution, global warming, and other valuable knowledge, even though every bit of new knowledge we've ever collected has served to glorify God's wondrous creation much more thoroughly than Biblical authors could have ever imagined. But these so-called religious leaders don't care about glorifying God - they're only interested in saving face, and revenue.
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Consequently, some of the most serious problems that we have in the world today is a direct result of our organized religious leaders having our minds on lockdown. Their activity in that regard is a direct assault on the will of God, since God clearly made birds to fly, fish to swim, and man to think. We know this, because all of the evidence available to man shows that God made man's ability to think the key to his survival.
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Man arrived on this hostile planet as a necked ape, but with neither a legitimate ape's agility or strength. Man wasn't as ferocious as the lion, as strong as the elephant, nor could he soar above danger like the eagle. He should have been dead on arrival, but God provided him with one tool to help him to survive - the human mind. And it is through the development of that tool that man, this most unlikely and fragile of creatures, has established dominion over the entire Earth, and in an incredibly short period of time. Now, through our God-given intellect, we've become more fearsome than the most ferocious lion, we've created machines that are thousands of times more powerful than the strongest elephant, and we can now soar far beyond the eagle's domain. We've even left the planet to explore other worlds.
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Thus, it was clearly God's will that we be logical, thinking beings. So for us to now allow man to come along and tell us that we should suspend our nature as thinking beings, and "have faith" in what, he, man tells us, is a slap in the face of God. By doing so we're showing more faith in what man says, than what God has done.
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That is the source of all of our problems; we're not remaining true to our nature. To tell a man not to think is like telling a fish not to swim, or a bird not to fly. If either of those creatures were stupid enough to comply, they would not survive. And if man continues to listen to other self-serving men instead of utilizing his mind as God intended, he's not going to survive.
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It was through putting our faith in man that we believed that God condoned the Manifest Destiny, that led to the genocide of Native Americans. It was through our faith in man that we believed that God condoned the brutal enslavement of millions of African Americans. It was also man's faith in man that allowed Hitler to convinced the German people that God condoned the murder of six million Jews. And more recently, it was through having more faith in George Bush and Dick Cheney than in the common sense that God gave us, that the American people were convinced that God condoned the sacrifice of our youth and the blatant murder of  hundreds of thousands innocent Iraqis - people who did absolutely nothing to us, other than being in the unfortunate position of sitting on the oil that we coveted.
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Now, don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with being spiritual. But we must always remember, just because a man has the gift of gab and says he's a man of God, that doesn't mean that God sees it that way. God doesn't speak to him any louder than he speaks to you, and no man speaks for God. So whenever you want to hear God's word, just listen to your heart, and God will speak to you directly.
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And there's one other thing. While admittedly, I don't speak for God either, I think I'm pretty safe in saying that God will never tell you to buy another man a big house and a new Cadillac - he didn't do it for Jesus, so why should he do it for these latter-day "saints?"
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And for you zealots out there. Don't forget, God works in mysterious ways. He might have led you to read this piece. So maybe you should think about what I'm saying - it just might spare your child an early death . . . all alone, in the desert.
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"Fascism: A radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
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Look familiar?

Related Post:
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

If the U.S. Postal Service Really Wants to Honor Black People, Try Emancipating Them.

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE


If the U.S. Postal Service Really Wants to Honor Black People, Try Emancipating Them

On July 10, 2010 The United States Postal Service issued two 44-cent postage stamps honoring the Negro Baseball League. During the ceremony held in Kansas City, MO, Thurgood Marshall Jr., vice chairman of the Postal Service's Board of Governors, spoke on behalf of the postal service. While the issuance of the stamps was a laudable gesture, the gesture and the ceremony itself was fraught with irony.

Considering the postal service's abysmal record of employee abuse, the gesture was nothing less than a slap in the face to both the Negro Baseball League, whose members were the victims of the worst kind of discrimination, and to Thurgood Marshall Sr., who dedicated his life to the struggle for human rights. The ceremony was perfectly akin to having the first born of Frederick Douglass honoring the work ethic of former slaves at a Sons of the Confederacy convention.

I'm virtually certain that if the members of the Negro Baseball League were around today to see the deplorable conditions that the majority of postal workers are forced to endure, they'd say, "Never mind the stamp. Honor us by emancipating our people - all of the people, of every race, creed, and color. " And if Justice Marshall was alive, he'd be overcome with shame to see the human degradation that his son is presiding over.

There is yet another irony here, and perhaps, one even greater than those listed above. The blatant theft of employee wages, intimidation, physical and emotional abuse, and employees being forced to work between four and six hours a day without pay is going on in a United States government agency, and under an African American president. The fact is, that's more than ironic, it's absolutely unbelievable.

President Lincoln was willing to go to war to end slavery on his watch, where President Obama can emancipate over 600,000 American citizens with a simple phone call. Yet, in spite of repeated White House contacts and extended articles written and posted on the Democratic National Committee website, President Obama has failed to make that phone call.

It's hard to believe that the administration can be so tone deaf - then, they don't understand why the president is dropping in the polls. The problem is simple - the president is so preoccupied with trying to win over people that he'll never get, that he's ignoring the people who put him in office.

It's like deja vue. President Obama is making the exact same mistake that Tom Bradley did. After becoming the first Black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley failed to stand with his core constituency. After the unconscionable Eula Love shooting by the LAPD, Major Bradley came up missing in action. So when he ran for governor he lost just by a hair - and that hair represented the main people whose vote he thought he could count on. I know, because I was one of those voters.While I didn't vote for Republican, George Deukmejian, I simply decided to skip the gubernatorial race on the ballot.

I like President Obama . He's one of the most intelligent presidents we've ever had.  He saved the nation from another Great Depression, and he's accomplished more in his first two years in office than most presidents manage to accomplish in their entire eight years. But there's more to being a good president than what the president manages to do. We must also take into account what he fails to do - and unfortunately, what Obama is failing to do is protect the rule of law, and that can place us all in serious jeopardy.

Even before he became president Obama backpedaled on FISA and failed to hold Bush accountable for spying on Americans. Then once he became president, he turned a blind eye to Bush and Cheney's war crimes. Now President Obama is allowing 600,000 American citizens to be mugged by a United States government agency. That's unacceptable.

Maintaining the rule of law is THE most important function of government. Everything else hinges on it - it was the government's failure to maintain the rule of law that allowed lynchings to take place in the South. Without the rule of law you cannot maintain a democracy, since it is the rule of law that makes a democracy possible. That is exactly why the president is made to swear in the oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" -  because the Constitution IS the law.

So regardless to how much good you do, President Obama, if you fail to protect the people from government corruption and abuse, it ain't enough. So while I'm one of your biggest supporters, if you come up short in that area, as far as I'm concerned, "what's love got to do with it?"

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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Glance at Destiny

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

A Glance at Destiny

Since this is political column I rarely use it to discuss anything else. But when I come across exceptional excellence I feel obligated to bring it to your attention. In this era where glaring mediocrity has become the standard we expect, unfettered excellence is a political statement in itself, and Ms. Rita Edmond speaks volumes in that regard.

Several weeks ago I was in Leimert Park when a friend and fellow sax player came up to me and said, "Man, you've just got to hear this singer. She's going to blow you away." So we went to my car and he played the CD. He chose the tune, "You'd be So Nice to Come Home to," from her CD "Sketches of a Dream," and he was absolutely right about her impact on me. She literally blew me away.

I'm a very cynical sort when it comes to music, so while I should have known better, considering the taste of the gentleman who brought Ms. Edmond to my attention, I was expecting to hear just another one of the hordes of singers with a pleasant voice. But before this lady got through the first chorus of the tune it was clear to me that this wasn't just another good signer. This lady is special. The experience of hearing her for the first time can only be compared to the first time I heard, and really understood, Ella, Sarah Vaughan, or Dinah Washington. The only difference was, this time, I understood the importance of what I was hearing. It was an experience that I will never forget - and please believe me, this is not hyperbole. I'm dead serious.

Before Rita could get to the first bridge of the tune I told my friend that I've got to have this CD. But when he started telling me where I could pick up a copy it became clear that he didn't understand what I was saying, so I had to make myself clear. "No. You don't understand. I want THIS copy." Fortunately, being the good natured fella that he is, he caved in and sold it to me.

Being a musician I'm sure he understood instinctively that I didn't want to share the experience of my first encounter with this very exceptional woman with him or anyone else, and he was right. Immediately after purchasing the CD I went to the park, parked under a shade tree and listened to it in its entirety, and that's when my musical love affair began.

It turned out that the tune that first got my attention wasn't even my favorite tune on the CD - in fact, I really can't tell you which tune is my favorite. There are no fillers on the entire CD. Any tune on the CD could very easily have served as the title song.

The entire CD is flawless. For weeks I woke up listening to it, and being the night creature that I am, I'd take a sip of dinner out on my patio and listened to it from 3 a.m. in the morning until the dawn. Then once I was sure my neighbors were awake, I'd take out my horn and play along with it until I became exhausted. Musicians will immediately understand where I'm coming from, while I'm sure the civilians among you will think this a bit excessive. But those are the facts, and I'm not exaggerating one bit.

Now Ms. Edmond has come out with another CD, "A Glance at Destiny," and it's just that. I love this one even more than the first, if that's possible. Hearing her sing "Sonny," "You've Changed," "Gentle Rain," "Just Friends," and "You don't Know What Love is" will surely be a delight for every committed jazz fan, because they remain true in depth, feeling, and artistry of the originals in every way.

But this CD is not just a walk down memory lane for we old fogies. Ms. Edmond is also extremely contemporary, so "A Glance at Destiny" will also serve as an excellent primer for those who simply love beautiful music but don't really understand what jazz is all about. If you happen to be one of those people, pick up this CD and broaden your horizons. Be schooled by one of your own. Ms. Edmond is of the hip hop generation, so she understands and appreciates hip hop as well, but jazz just happens to be her thing.

And one more word to the jazz purists. This is not one of those take-off CDs where you have studio musicians doing their interpretation of what jazz is SUPPOSE to sound like. This is the real deal. Rita's accompanied by Ricky Woodard on tenor sax, Nolan Shaheed on trumpet, Z. Sean Johnson on flute, Greg Poree and Jaques Lasure on guitar, Llew Matthews (Nancy Wilson's keyboard player) and Joel Scott on piano, James Leary and Edwin Livingston on bass, and the illustrious Albert "Tootie" Heath of the world renowned Heath brothers on drums. You don't get no more legit than that.

Tootie Heath's presence on this CD alone should say it all. He and his brothers, Jimmy and Percy Heath, are of the bluest of the blue bloods of  jazz. They are as much a part of the jazz aristocracy as Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Finally, I mentioned that Ms. Edmond's excellence also represents a political statement, and nothing is more representative of that fact than her rendition of "Here's to Life." Rita Edmond is a relatively young woman, but the artistry, passion, and sensitivity that she brings to that tune is of a bygone era. You simply don't find the kind Sarah Vaughan-like artistry that she brought to that tune today. It left me feeling like the hand of a higher power has to be involved in what she does.

I'm not very big on metaphysics, so while my common sense tells me that Rita wasn't even born when many of these tunes were written, my stubborn heart says, "Don't be a fool, Eric. Listen to that woman! She's been here before - case closed." I'm feeling a little silly, but the more I listen to Rita sing, the closer I come to caving in to that argument.  So I say again, Ms.Edmond's rendition of "Here's to Life" is THE most passionate and heart wrenching performance that I have ever heard by ANYONE, doing any song - EVER:

"No complaints, and no regrets. I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets. Yet I've learned that all you give is what you get, so give it all you've got. I've had my share; I've drank my fill. And even though I'm satisfied, I'm hungry still. To see what's down another road beyond the hill, and do it all again. So here's to life, and every joy it brings. So here's to life, to the dreamers and the dream."

So has Ms. Edmond been here before? I don't know. But I do know this - she sings with a vision, polish, and a smooth, matter-of-fact delivery that's far beyond her years.  So give her a listen, then you tell me if this is her first time around.  You just might be surprised at your own answer.

A Glance at Destiny is a truly powerful effort. I could only find one criticism of the entire CD - Ricky Woodard's solo on "Gentle Rain" keeps reminding me of why I'm sitting here writing instead of playing my horn for a living.

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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