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Was or were, right or wrong, not to worry, just read on

On a day not really all that far back in time—22 June, 2009—I submitted a letter to our local daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States in the hope that it would be published. An offer was made to publish it but the editor e-mailed me to say that certain parts would be cut out. In an e-mail I told him to not publish the letter, and I chastised him for his response to a long-time subscriber to the paper. What follows is the initial response from the public editor.

From: BRichter@express-news.net (the public editor of the paper)
Mon, Jun 22, 2009 1:34 PM
H.M. – Thanks for your letter. May we publish it? I think I’ll cut all the whining about your letters not getting published when they strike a nerve. We’ll just go with the criticism of the photo in question (which I didn’t really think was so bad).
Bob Richter

I rejected publication because the public editor slimed me—well, perhaps slimed is a bit too strong—let’s just say that he whined me and because of that whining, the same label he placed on my submission, I vowed to never submit another letter to the public editor for consideration, but instead post my whining on WordPress, a far more appreciative audience than the Express-News. I have never had a submission rejected or criticized.

Now to get to the crux of this posting—everything I’ve said up to this point was intended to explain my criticism of the public editor’s grammar in his article that appeared in Metro of the Sunday edition of March 6, 2011.

Yes, grammar—with all that supposed talent he has at his beck and call, he started and finished an article he wrote by improperly using the verb was. The article centered on budget cuts proposed by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas that involved disabled Texans, and much to his credit he began the article with disclosing that his son has disabilities and lives in a group home that receives state aid.

I can readily understand and admire the title of his article:

Budget Cuts: What if it was your kid?

The final paragraph is a one-sentence closure with a wish from him and a question for Governor Perry:
What I wish is that Perry would put himself in our shoes:

What if it was your kid, Rick?

The verb was is the subjunctive mood of the verb to be, a mood suggesting that something is not or perhaps may not be. The subjunctive mood gets really complicated if one digs too deeply, but one does not need to dig deeply, or even pick up a shovel in order to determine whether was or were should  be used.

There is an incredibly simple way to remember whether to use was or were. If the word if is lurking anywhere in the sentence, whether visible or concealed, the proper usage is were, and if if can neither be seen nor assumed, the proper usage is was. Please forgive me for the double if in the previous sentence—I just couldn’t resist it—when read aloud it sounds like a puppy barking.

The article’s title should read, What if it were your kid?

The ending should read, What if it were your kid, Rick?

Some more examples of the subjunctive verb were:

What if the copywriters were better versed in English?
What if the current public editor were reassigned?
Were he reassigned
, would it lower the paper’s ratings or raise them?
Was
he reassigned?
No, he was not reassigned.
Note the absence of if in
the last two sentences above.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: In all fairness I must state that, in my somewhat unlearned opinion, the public editor’s article was highly cogent, nicely constructed, timely and well presented, with the only exceptions noted in this posting.

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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News: Who was that pit bull?

Letter to the editor
Express-News, P.O. Box 2171
San Antonio TX 78297

Who was that pit bull?

The question in the title above should offend your language sensibilities—if it does not offend, please stop reading and go in search of other postings by people who are poorly versed in the intricacies of our English language. I formed that title question in my mind when I read the pit bull story in today’s Express-News on Page 9B of the Metro Section, an article written by Maria Anglin. The article included a file photo of a pit bull, and the caption below the photo stated that The shooting of a pit bull who was attacking a passerby brings up the issue of responsible pet owners—bolding of the word who is mine.

Who was that pit bull, you ask? That pit bull was not a who—that pit bull was the pit bull that attacked a passerby on Wednesday, January 9, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. It was the pit bull that was shot in the leg by a witness to the attack, a witness that happened to have a gun and the license to carry a concealed weapon. It was the pit bull that limped away and was ultimately captured and destroyed by the city’s Animal Care Services.

This post was not prompted by the pit bull’s attack on the elderly woman, nor by the fact that the dog had no tags on its collar, nor is it my intent to discuss the pros and cons of dogs illegally roaming the streets, or whether our Texas gun laws are good or bad for our society.

Nope, none of the above—this post was prompted by the fact that a dog is not a who. The word dog may be followed by that or which, but never who. A dog can be a that, an it, an is or a which, but never who. A dog may also be referred to as a he or as a she, but no dog—no, not even Lassie of movie fame– should ever be referred to as a who, and those persons employed in the newspaper business—journalists, copy writers and copy editors should know that. A human being is correctly referred to as the person who, or as the person that, depending on the writer’s preference—dogs do not have that privilege—they are not human—they are dogs.

Kudos to Maria Anglin, the author of the pit bull story. Maria danced around the term and used the words which, that and it. I would suppose that the photo and the caption were added after her copy was submitted—otherwise she would have corrected the flaw.

Back in the days when I was gainfully employed, I worked with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she often pronounced the letter eye as an e—she repeatedly labeled people as nit pickers, but the sound came out as neet peekers. Readers of this post may consider me to be a neet peeker, but they should remember and adhere to the proverbial rhyme below. It demonstrates that small actions can result in large consequences.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a nail.

A final note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor, nor will I submit it. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wiser audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on WordPress.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by WordPress.

Nineteen months have passed since I vowed that I would never submit another letter to the editor of the Express-News for consideration, and I have kept my vow. I have posted several letters to the editor on Word Press during that period—yes, there have been others I did not send to the Express-News editor. I was burned—read insulted—once by that worthy, and I refuse to be insulted again. I will continue to nurse my pride and do my whining in other venues—so there!

Postscript: There is an animal rescue organization in our city that publishes and send out to it members a periodic newsletter detailing its work over a specific period of time. Without exception, the species of the animals and birds are capitalized in the literature—Dog, Cat, Rat, Bird, Snake, Roach, etc., etc., and every species is referred to as a who—DooDoo, the Dog who, and Rastus, the rat who, and Polly, the Parrot who, etc., etc. I admire their work immensely, but I abhor their writing intensely. Perhaps it is done out of respect for the various species of animals but perhaps they don’t know any better, similar to the staffer at the Express-News who captioned the subject of this posting.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in dogs, pit bulls, Uncategorized

 

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Battling e-mails . . .

Battling e-mails . . .

For some time I have considered posting this series of e-mails but I have held the posting in abeyance until now. I doubt that many viewers will hang on long enough to finish reading it, but that will be their loss. It seemed to me in the past that a rift had been created between me and the finest neighbor and friend one could ever wish for, and through no fault of either of us. Nevertheless, it appeared to exist—now it seems to have gone away, or perhaps never was.

These are the e-mails that passed between me and my neighbor lady to the west, posted as transmitted and as received. My e-mails are in standard type and hers are in italics.

Feb 3, 2010:

Good morning, Sherlock Holmes here:

I’m currently conducting an investigation to determine why and how my daily copy of the Express-News is mysteriously appearing on my front step, neatly placed there by someone or something to be determined. It was there this morning at an early hour. Today is the second time the phenomenon has occurred in as many weeks, and we had rain on both days.

My first thought was that the paper carrier wanted to ensure that the paper stayed dry, but it was double-bagged and would have to be submerged before it could suffer any damage. Besides, I have not remitted a gratuity to the carrier since 2007 and cannot reasonably expect her to be so obliging. Unless, of course, she is buttering me up for the coming Christmas season. I suppose that could be it, but I have serious doubts.

I next considered the possibility that Rudy, the cat that lives with the family across the street, is picking the paper up with his teeth and placing it in a dry spot, hoping for a continuation of the chicken and salmon handouts.

That is not likely, because he was nowhere in sight when I picked up the paper either time. He did not show at all on the first day, and as of the time of this writing I have not seen him today. That reduces the probability that he is doing the good deed. I suppose Ralph, the cat that resides with my neighbor to the west, could harbor the same thoughts, but I would think that Rudy would be more likely.

There is a third possibility, one a teeny bit more plausible than the first two. Two weeks ago I stepped out on my stoop, looked very carefully in all directions, except to the rear because no danger lurked in that direction. The coast was clear (so to speak), so I ambled out toward the mailbox (the paper was in proximity to said letter receptacle). Wearing a bright green fuzzy housecoat and brown house shoes, I arrived at my destination and bent over to pick up my paper, and at that instant I heard someone say, very audibly and gleefully, “I wish I had a camera!”

As to whether my ensemble included pajamas, it did not. A pair of skinny white legs were in full view. Well, not in full view, just up to mid-tibia. Said legs were supported by a matching pair of skinny white feet, ensconced in brown leather house shoes.

So the third possibility is that the person that voiced that wish, not wishing to be faced with that apparition again, is defending himself by placing the paper on my stoop, thereby keeping me out of sight in the process of retrieving my paper.

This is a very serious investigation, and I would be grateful for any and all assistance.

Feb 3, 2010

WHAT???? Your paper doesn’t get wet??? Our paper gets soaked. Now that I think about it, the water probably runs down the driveway right into the bag. Well, I don’t think you need to worry about your paper phenomenon any longer. Do let me know if the culprit starts hiding the paper, though. That would definitely require a more thorough investigation.

Kathy

At this point a three-day quiet ensues with no e-mails between me and my neighbor. I was very busy running between home and the hospital and I neglected to read and respond to my e-mails.

Feb 6, 2010

It has been eerily quiet over there. Did my response offend you? You are very funny and clever in your writings. When I try that tactic, it usually backfires, since I am neither funny nor clever. I did put your paper on your porch because I thought it was getting soaked like ours often does. Your white legs had nothing to do with it! Now that I know your paper does not get wet, I’ll leave it there. You are free to retrieve it in whatever attire you choose. I often retrieve our paper in my robe. So, let’s just agree to leave our cameras out of this.

Kathy

P.S. You are a very good writer, a trait that obviously not everyone has. I hope you decide to continue writing your memoirs for a potential book. I’d definitely buy one, but I would want it autographed.

Feb 7, 2010

Hi, Kathy,

I read your e-mail at 2:30 this morning (I had a brief sleep last night —up at 2:01). Nothing new there, of course—my sleep is brief on most nights.

A hundred mea culpas!

No, make that a thousand mea culpas because there is nothing you, Kevin or Ralph could do to offend me, and had you and Kevin and Ralph not banished the girls to another exotic location, there is nothing they could do to offend me. Even if you, Kevin, Ralph, the banished iguanas and your extended family banded together in a concerted effort to offend me, I would not be offended. The only way you could possibly come close to offending me would be to take me and my babbling seriously—life is simply too short for me to be serious—besides, it’s not in my nature!

I had the best of intentions to answer your previous two e-mails, the one on Victor Borge’s video that Cindy posted, and the one in which you asked me to let you know “if the culprit starts hiding the paper.” Of course, as the saying goes, “The road to (fill in the blank) is paved with good intentions.”

Unfortunately, recent events got in the way and I delayed my responses (actually, that means I forgot to respond). We’ve had an unusually busy week, and things are not going as well as we would like. Yesterday especially was not a good day, but things seem to have leveled off. I believe—I hope and I pray—that the worst is over.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I found that phrase on Wikipedia— I am greviously at fault, and as an apology Wikipedia said it far better than I could.

I have no knowledge of how or why or when your Sunday paper was placed neatly just outside your door this morning, placed at a right angle to the street (I just pray that the picker-upper doesn’t trip over it). Also if I were forced to guess, I would guess that it was placed by some nut wearing a bright green robe, etc., etc. I would also hazard a guess that the deed was accomplished somewhere around 6:00 AM (Central Time).

March 2, 2010:

A card from Kathy, delivered by the US Postal Service although our mailboxes are approximately sixty feet apart:

Dear green-robed phantom and your pink-robed wife:

Thank you so much for the delicious edible arrangement! That was quite a surprise. The other big surprise is that you used 4 exclamation points after “Happy Birthday.” I was so perplexed that I questioned Kevin, “Do we know any other green and pink-robed couples?”

I hope you know that your presence as our neighbors is truly a real gift. Any more than that is really not necessary. Thank you, though. That was very kind!

Your (one year older) neighbor,

Kathy

March 3, 2010

Dear One Year Older Neighbor,

Thanks for the card and for the kind thoughts, especially the thought that you consider our presence as your neighbors to be a real gift. I wish I had said it first but I didn’t, so I’ll just bounce it right back at you. Regarding our presence as neighbors, As ours is to you, so yours is to us.

On the subject of exclamation points, I have given up. You know that in a dog fight the vanquished dog, rather than running, may simply end the fight by lying on his back, thereby giving the victor access to his underbelly, his most vulnerable area—it is a sign of surrender.

I’m not going to that extreme, but I have surrendered. I have given up on my quest to eliminate, or even to reduce, exclamation points. I realize that the practice is too well entrenched, so I’ve decided that if I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em! And I enjoy it—it’s fun!

I just took a closer look at the sentence that says “As ours is to you, so yours is to us.” When viewed out of context it seems to take on some profound meaning, similar to a Tibetan monk’s summary of life or some other chant.

Try it. Read it aloud several times. Look real solemn and speak in a deep tone. You’ll find that it takes on mystic properties. I think I may have created something. I should probably copyright it!

March 4, 2010:

You are so funny!! I wish the Express-News would replace that Marcie Meffert (Elders Express) in the S.A. Life with your writing. I’m not sure what the “elders” is for, and I’m not implying anything concerning your age here. I think she writes for the group of readers who would also qualify for AARP membership, older folks fifty-ish plus. I have only read her articles a few times, but I have yet to read one that I like. She tries to tell stories about her life, and I think she is trying to be humorous. She seems to be lacking the charm that you seem to have captured. You are a far superior writer, and way funnier! This “Dear Neighbor” writing had me LOL today! I agree on the mystic properties—copyright it!

Kathy

March 5, 2010:

Those are some really kind words. Ain’t nobody that good, but you finally convinced me! Normally I would be delighted to replace the Meffert lady, but I have such distaste for the Express-News that I would be unwilling to have my name associated with it. I fought a running battle last year with Bob Richter, the editor for Letters to the Editor—dueling e-mails, if you will, and I won—he apologized for his lapse in judgment. He had asked for permission to print my letter, saying that he liked it but would omit my “whining” about the paper. I refused to authorize its publication.

I no longer strive to have my thoughts printed in Your Turn of the Metro section of the Express-News—my gain, the public’s loss. However, I sometimes throw rocks at the paper by posting items that I did not submit for publication, then I bad-mouth the Express-News on Word Press by claiming that my submission was rejected. Sneaky, huh?

Kathy, it really is a small world—we were neighbors to the Meffert family for several years in the latter part of the 1960s, with only one house between us, in what was then a decent lower-middle-class neighborhood near Lackland Air Force Base. It’s now a shambles, a nightmare with gang activity everywhere, gunshots frequently heard both day and night, lots of graffiti, chain-link-fenced front yards and junked cars behind them. The fences are not to keep the kids in—they’re there to keep the dogs out and to slow down burglars laden with items purloined from the houses.

Marcie had five children, two girls and three boys, their ages ranging from one year up to nine years—a very fertile lady, that one! Her husband was a surgical dentist in Lackland’s dental service, and attended me through a long series of dental procedures required by my failure to pay proper attention to dental matters. I was a smoker at the time—he said he did not smoke, and frequently lectured me on the evils of tobacco, then on almost every visit apologetically bummed a cigarette from me.

We were never close friends with the parents. We waved at them when appropriate, and Marcie and Janie often stood outside to discuss whatever women discuss—their children, I would suspect—Marcie was usually out looking for her children. As best as I can remember, neither family ever entered the other family’s house, probably because neither family ever invited the other family in. However, we came to know her children well. She put them out to graze each morning and called them back in for lunch and dinner, leaving the neighbors to look out for the kids. They were well behaved—the older girl was Cindy’s best friend, and she spent lots of time in our home.

All five children received good educations and seemed to fare well following graduation. Cindy’s best friend Lisa died several months ago—her obituary in the Express-News said only that she died suddenly. The obituary included her siblings’ names, marital status and their whereabouts. Their various professions were impressive—two colonels in the military, two doctors and one biology professor. I am of the opinion that their early association with our girls gave them the necessary head start to put them on the way to success—then again, maybe not.

When we returned to San Antonio in 1987, Marcie was the mayor of Leon Valley and wrote a column on city activities. I believe the Elders Express gig came after she was no longer the mayor. We have never made any effort to contact her to talk about old times. Lacking any strong desire to relive history with Marcie, we have been content to read her columns. Those columns, along with her daughter’s obituary, comprise our knowledge of her and her family.

But it is a small world, wouldn’t you agree?

March 5, 2010:

Agreed—a very small world sometimes! I hope that my observations of her writings weren’t too unkind. I just think that you would be a much better writer for that spot in the paper. Well, as long as I’m wishing, you’d make a far better editor to the Letters to the Editor too, but let’s not even go there!

I see that you and Kevin must have talked. He didn’t know that I would be home for a short time this afternoon and I didn’t know either. One of my tutoring students canceled out, so they may make the delivery while I’m here. If they do I’ll call and let you know. Thanks!

Kathy

March 5, 2010

Your observations of her writings were not unkind at all, and your analysis of her work is right on. Writing with a restricted amount of space is more difficult than the writing I do. I have unlimited space and therefore just keep writing until I everything I want to say has been said, and is available somewhere among the verbiage. The reader just needs to keep sifting through the chaff in order to find the kernels of wheat.

At various duty stations during my military career, I wrote performance reports for a whole gaggle of people, officers as well as enlisted people, and that included writing my own performance reports. My superior only needed to sign them. The writing wasn’t part of my job. People heard about the guy that could get a person promoted and came to me with the details. I fashioned them into a performance report. The narrative had to be fitted into a limited space, and I soon learned that 250 words wrested from my vocabulary filled that space nicely. When I reached the magic number, I stopped writing.

No, writing such reports was not my job. I was a maintenance analysis superintendent, whatever that was, and I dealt more with numbers than with words. I hated numbers and loved words. Go figure!

While at Kelly Air Force Base in the late 1960s, I wrote performance reports for my commanding officer. In our association over a period of five years, he was promoted twice, from lieutenant colonel to full colonel and then to brigadier general. Coincidentally, I was promoted twice during the same period. My pay raises were not quite as generous as his, of course, and shortly after the second promotion, both his and mine, I was unceremoniously shipped off to Vietnam. I guess the general figured that one star was all he was going to get. Bummer!

November 16, 2010:

That concludes the exchange of e-mails between me and my neighbor. I trust that some of my viewers made it this far in this posting. I realize it’s lengthy, but I also realize that it contains some interesting neighborly communications, perhaps with comical, even historical value that may appeal to my family and to my neighbor and her family, and perhaps to some of my viewers—I hope, I hope!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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An open letter to a Houston burglar . . .

Editor, Houston Post

Houston, Texas

Dear sir,

I was living near the Galleria in February, 1987 when my home, a rented duplex, was burglarized, and I wrote this open letter to a Houston burglar shortly after that happened. I relocated to another city late in February without having submitted it to you for consideration. However, the message is just as timely now as it was then, and in fact will always be applicable in the Houston metropolitan area.

I believe that I speak for most homeowners when I say that we should be allowed to use deadly force to protect our homes. We need to send a message to the criminal elements that prey on us. The television and VCR, the coins and jewelry and microwave and computer equipment and all the other items that afford the burglar a quick return for his efforts mean nothing. It is the potential for tragedy that exists in any burglary situation that should concern us. If this letter makes just one burglar turn aside or convinces just one homeowner to better protect himself against intrusion, then the effort will have been worthwhile.

An open letter to a Houston burglar

You probably don’t read the daily paper but there should be someone close to you that does, someone that knows about your criminal acts—a brother or a sister, your spouse or your sweetheart, your parents or your children or perhaps your friends. Perhaps one of them will give you this message. If you take heed it may save your life, and it might save me from committing a mortal sin.

I recently joined the legions of Houston residents that have been burglarized by you. The police said that mine was one of fifty or sixty homes in the metropolitan area that were hit on that day. I take no comfort in knowing that I was not alone, nor that I am just one of many that suffer the same indignity on any average day in Houston. I am outraged, and I am deeply concerned, both for your safety and mine.

That outrage and concern prompted this letter. For your sake and mine, you need to know how I feel and what my intentions are. Whether you are the one that committed the act or one that has the potential of committing a similar act, I must give you this message.

Don’t do it.

Don’t do it unless you are ready to suffer the consequences. Don’t do it unless you are prepared to be shot. I own a firearm and I know how to use it. I will shoot you or any other of your kind if you enter my home again.

I know that deadly force cannot be justified to defend property, that it can only be justified in the defense of my life or the life of another person. I am prepared to take my chances with a jury. Unless you are prepared to take your chances with me, don’t come back

You were in my kitchen and living room and bathrooms and bedrooms. You were not invited. My home is a sanctuary, just as yours is. I respect your home and your privacy. You violated the sanctity of mine. When I close my door I shut out the world, not just the noise and pollution but the world and its people. Whether the poorest hovel or the finest mansion, my home is inviolate. I will take any action necessary to protect it.

I was against capital punishment until you entered my home. I was for gun control until you entered my home. I am now for capital punishment and against gun control. Burglary of an occupied home should be punishable by death. Not on the second or third or fourth offense but on the first offense. It should make no difference whether daylight or dark, whether armed or unarmed, whether the occupants are at home or away. It should make no difference, because the potential for tragedy is the same.

The punishment should consider the potential as well as the actual consequences of the crime. Many people have died because they surprised you and others like you in the act of burglarizing their home, and many more will die for the same reason. That reason is simple. You are prepared to take any action necessary to ensure your success and your freedom. You are prepared. We are not.

Many of the items you took cannot be replaced, but enough have been replaced to make it worth your while to return. And the items you failed to take because you ran out of time or did not have room for are still here. But this time will be different.

This time I am prepared. I am ready for your return. This will be the only warning you will get. I consider it a fair warning, and certainly more than you gave before you ransacked my home. Don’t expect a command to halt or freeze or raise your hands. You will not hear it. You’ll hear the first shot, and maybe the second shot, and you may even hear the third. They will continue until the hammer clicks on a spent shell. It’s a heavy weapon, a magnum, so all the shots may not be required, but I must guarantee my own survival, and I assure you that I will be as thorough and certain in my task as you were in yours.

I have asked the editors to not print my name, but not because I fear you or want to set a trap for you. I don’t want you to consider this a challenge to see if you can do it again and get away with it. And I don’t want you to know my race or gender or nationality or ethnicity. I could be any one of the many thousands you have victimized in this city. I could be male or female, anglo or latin or black or oriental. We have all suffered at your hands. This way you won’t know which of us to avoid in order to continue your chosen career—that lack of knowledge could save your life.

The only way you can be sure is to stop burglarizing homes. It may not happen for a long time, and it may happen soon. If your next target is my home, it will happen then. Mine is not the only home in Houston defended by someone determined to protect loved ones and property. Mine is simply the only one that has given you fair warning.

Don’t do it. If you do, I will do my utmost best to make it the last home you will ever hit, the last challenge you will ever pick up, and the last breath you will ever take. You will be dead, and you will stay dead.

Believe it. For your sake and for mine, believe it.

 

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Note to sign painters: Head for West Virginia . . .

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Your editorial in the Metro Section on Monday, July 19, 2010 entitled, Renaming dorm at UT proper, recounts the changing of Simkins Hall’s name to Creekside Hall, an action taken because of the scholarly research of Tom Russell, a former UT law professor and inquiries by the Austin American-Statesman. In what appears to be a rewrite of history, William Stewart Simkins is now considered a racist because of his association with the Ku Klux Klan, and therefore not worthy of having his name on a student residence named in his honor some 56 years ago, in spite of the fact that he was a longtime popular professor and considered a great legal scholar and teacher.

The article states that, Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

This letter is not meant to criticize UT for renaming the student hall. It is a matter of no consequence to me, nor should it be to anyone else, including your editorial writers and the 2,000 black students enrolled at UT. The student residence is UT’s property and subject to any name they prefer, for whatever reason. Nor will the renaming affect William Stewart Simkins—he’s been dead since 1929.

However—and this is a big however—it should affect the sovereign state of West Virginia. West Virginia is morally bound to follow in UT’s footsteps. They must follow UT’s lead and rename everything in West Virginia that carries the name of Robert C. Byrd, the late United States senator from West Virginia. The state should also rename everything that carries the name of Erma Byrd, placed there by the senator in honor of his long-time wife.

A member of the Democratic party, Byrd served as a West Virginia senator from 1959 to 2010, and was the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress.

Why, you may ask, should the people of West Virginia rename all the places that sport the senator’s name? My answer is because it’s the right thing to do, the honorable thing to do. West Virginia should take the moral path and remove the name Robert C. Byrd from any and all public buildings and areas—parks, streets, highways, bridges, monuments and history books, and from all local, state and federal institutions and offices. While at it they should also remove and rename all the locations and institutions the senator named in honor of Erma Byrd, his late wife. Married for 69 years (1937—2006), one can reasonably assume that she was aware of his association with the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1944, Byrd wrote to segregationist Mississippi Senator Bilbo: I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds. Click here to read the complete Wikipedia article.

Over the coming years, beginning with his first campaign, Senator Byrd did a complete about face—he renounced and denounced the Ku Klux Klan and embraced the black population of the United States, or at least the voting population of West Virginia, and was re-elected to his seat for the next fifty years.

Does that redeem him? Will his record in the U.S. Senate nullify the feelings he expressed in his 1944 letter to Theodore Bilbo, the segregationist Mississippi senator?

Perhaps—and perhaps not.

Listen to the You Tube video below, an interview with Tony Snow in 2007—the senator starts out fine, but manages to step on his pepperoni before the interview ends, so stay with it to the end to hear his apology for his comments. Did he really change his feelings? Remember that  this interview was conducted in 2007 following decades of professing far different feelings toward blacks—a slip of the tongue, perhaps?

In closing, allow me to repeat UT’s reasoning for renaming Simkins Hall:

Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

I submit to you that the same rationale should be applied by West Virginia residents regarding the plethora of places that are named in Byrd’s honor. Click here to read the 51 places that have been identified, plus nine named to honor his wife, a total of 60 and counting—the authors do not claim that the list is complete and are soliciting any that do not appear on the list.

The following editorial statement should appear in the Charleston Gazette and every other newspaper in West Virgina:

Once the past was uncovered, it is clear that Robert Byrd’s name and the name of his wife are inconsistent with the mission of the various edifices and other locations that bear their names, therefore they must be renamed—the present names are an affront to West Virginia’s population of some 52,000 African Americans.

An important footnote: West Virginia is home to some 52,000 African Americans—that’s 50,000 more than were supposedly affronted by William Stewart Simkins’ name on a residence hall at Austin’s University of Texas campus. I wonder if an effort has ever been mounted to rename even one of the 60 plus places in West Virginia that bear the Byrd name?

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wider audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Michael Jackson—back in the news . . .

The King of Pop is back in the news. We have now learned that each of his (?) three children will inherit $300,000,000 on their thirtieth birthday. In celebration of that news I am dredging up a posting I made back in July of 2009 following the death of Michael Jackson in June of that year. Apparently hidden from view, that posting has garnered only four votes—three of which are mine—and no comments, so I’m bringing it out from the darkness of Past Postings into the bright light of today’s news.

Yes, I vote for my own postings, but only if I feel they are worthy of a vote—and no, I have never given myself a negative vote, nor have I ever given another blogger a negative vote. My mother taught me that if I cannot say something good about someone, I shouldn’t say anything. I will vote excellent for every posting I place on Word Press, if for no other reason than to congratulate myself for taking the time and effort to write. Any comment I might make to another blogger is intended to congratulate the writer, or to offer what I believe to be constructive criticism—the blogger is always free to edit, accept or delete such comments. I cheerfully admit that my reasoning is circular, but so be it.

As military people like to say, I’m running this posting up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes it—yes, they say that—they really do.

This is my original posting:

Kudos to Robert Rivard, the editor of the San Antonio Express-News, for his Metro article on Sunday, July 5, 2009. His article was titled “As Jackson is recalled, don’t forget his victims.” This article is the only sane review of Jackson’s death, and the only one that offers any measure of comfort to those who were victimized by the King of Pop—those to whom “He reportedly paid out tens of millions in settlements with his alleged victims.”

I know, I know—Jackson was found not guilty—so was O. J. Simpson.

I was somewhat startled by the Jackson is recalled part of the title—my first thought was that the King of Pop had been recalled from whatever dimension he entered following his death. And based on the news coverage, both by network news and cable outlets, my next thought was that perhaps the recall referred to his return to the Deity, the One that lovingly created him and endowed him with a super abundance of talent, and then allowed him to entertain the world for more than four decades. Apparently the Deity was either occupied with other duties or looked the other way during the times Jackson was engaged in those actions for which he was charged, namely the sexual abuse of young boys.

I realize, of course, that Robert Rivard used the term recalled to describe the feverish remembrance by the United States and the rest of the world of Jackson’s accomplishments in the fields of music and entertainment. This outpouring of emotion could only be equaled by combining the emotion which followed the deaths of John Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Lennon, Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ—with America’s entry into World War II and VJ Day thrown in. For those who were not around for it, for those who may have forgotten it and for those who have never heard of it—VJ Day marks the end of World War II—Victory in Japan.

The emotion over Michael Jackson’s death reached fever pitch with the lottery that was set up to accommodate the public for his memorial to be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles—17,500 tickets were offered on-line, and more than a million were requested.

As the San Antonio Express-News editor rightly notes, the cost for the memorial activities will be borne by a city in a state which is paying its debts with IOUs, a city that should have “. . . . . more important priorities than throwing a party for an entertainer whose talent was always shadowed by his own destructive self-loathing.”

I would not be surprised if plans have been formulated and approved for Jackson’s body to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda to allow viewing for mourners, and then be transported  with the rider-less horse and the black caisson procession to Arlington, Virginia for interment in the National Cemetery. In fact, judging from everything that has transpired so far, I will be sorely disappointed if that doesn’t happen. And I predict that in the near future, plans for a Michael Jackson monument on the Washington Mall will be finalized and approved, and will likely be paid for with federal funds, probably from one of the stimulus packages.

Bummer.

I hope that Rivard’s article will be picked up by news outlets and made available world-wide—the San Antonio Express-News is not in the same league as the Washington Post or the New York Times, so it will probably remain here at the local level. However, perhaps this posting will be picked up and carried on by my viewers.

I first came to San Antonio in 1963 and I have called it home ever since, with several absences, some brief and some in terms of years, all made necessary by military service and my later employment in federal Civil Service. I’ve submitted many letters to the editor over the years—some were accepted, some were rejected—some I expected to be tossed but submitted them anyway. An example of that can be found in one of the web sites shown below.

I no longer submit letters to the San Antonio Express-News editor. My reasons for not writing to the editor of the only daily newspaper in Texas’ third largest city—the city I have called home for the past 46 years—can be found in two previous postings to this blog.

Rather than having my submissions summarily rejected, I prefer to blog them. I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative.

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/letter-to-the-express-news-editor-san-antonio-tx/

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/letter-to-the-editor-san-antonio-express-news/

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News—S. A. cop shoots man with knife . . .

Letter to the editor, Express—News

March 10, 2010

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Please accept my compliments for your report on the use of a hitherto unknown weapon available to our police officers, as reported in today’s issue of San Antonio’s only daily newspaper. The development of the new weapon and its procurement were unknown to me until today’s issue arrived and had been read. The prompt for this submission was an incident that was reported  on page 2B in the News Roundup feature of the Metro section. I was pleased to note that our city is well ahead of the curve for innovative additions to the arsenal of weapons available to our uniformed police. The innovation pleased me, but the writing gave me no pleasure. This was the item’s heading:

S. A. cop shoots man with knife

In accordance with current journalism practices, details pertinent to the heading were given in the first paragraph, effectively setting the scene for the reader:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

The author—or authors—used an estimated 200 additional words to cover the events that followed the shooting, but no more details on the new weapon were given. I had no interest in subsequent events—my attention was riveted on the heading and on the first paragraph, one that featured a single sentence, pithily constructed. While pleased at the introduction of the new weapon, I was fascinated by the ambiguities contained in the heading and its first paragraph.

The heading—S. A. cop shoots man with knife—was a bit ambiguous, but clear enough for any reader to surmise that—or at least possibly that— a combination of knife and pistol was used. However, the paragraph that followed was even more ambiguous—it is repeated here for emphasis:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

Based purely on that paragraph, no reader can be sure whether other officers were present nor whether one officer, the one that fired the shot from the combination knife/firearm, shot one of the other officers as he ran at them. The reader has already surmised that the butcher’s knife doubled as a firearm, so in the face of that ambiguity could also surmise that the shot fired hit one of the other officers.

Oh, and there is yet another ambiguity—we are told that a man ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife. We don’t know exactly which man, nor do we know who was wielding the knife—one could reasonably surmise that it was wielded by the officers. If wielded by more than one officer, it must have been a really large butcher’s knife.

The reader is told that the butcher’s knife was wielded (carried) on the South Side, perhaps indicating that the carrier (or carriers) had previously wielded the knife/firearm combination in a different part of the city. The author erroneously capitalized both words, either inadvertently or purposely in the belief that locations appearing in the middle of a sentence should always be capitalized.

A reader might also surmise that the butcher’s knife  was carried on the side away from the officers—on the south side—in order to conceal it until the man came within reach of the target. I find that plausible—the wrong doer may have been running toward the other officers at an angle—sideways, so to speak—thus deliberately making an effort to conceal the weapon.

I thirst for more information on the new weapon, and I trust that the additional information will soon be provided. Apparently some highly imaginative weapons manufacturers and cutlery makers have created a dual-purpose weapon by combining a deadly blade with a deadly firearm—a weapon that can be used against a miscreant at close quarters or from a distance, depending on the situation and the discretion of the officer or officers.

The mere thought of police officers armed with such a weapon should strike fear into the hearts of any person contemplating one or more criminal activities. An errant citizen now knows that he (or she) will be sliced, slashed or stabbed as necessary if the officer is close enough, and if the officer is not within knife range, that errant (he or she) will be shot as many times, and in as many body parts, as necessary.

As an aside to this letter, I learned from a radio report this morning that the man was shot in the leg—which leg was not revealed, but it was either the left or the right. I do not recall the radio report shedding any light on that facet of the incident, nor do I recall the report specifying which man was shot and which man did the shooting, so my doubts created by the ambiguities present in the report remain extant.

And now for mandatory disclosures if any exist, and in this case there is one. This posting was not submitted to the Express-News for consideration. I have compiled an impressive collection of submissions to the editor in past years—some were printed and some were rejected. I soon realized that the rejections contained one or more criticisms, all of which were intended to be constructive, but the editor apparently did not consider them constructive, and in fact, in one instance the editor agreed to print a letter but would not include the whining portions of the submission. I refused permission to print it, whether with or without my whinings.

So now you know the rest of that story. I address constructive criticisms to the editor but I do not submit them to the editor. I submit them to Word Press on my blog. That publisher has never rejected a letter and I trust that they never will, assuming of course that my submissions are pertinent and in good taste—just as this letter is.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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