Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ted Williams

 

 

ted-williams-1960

 

 

Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams seemed in stature like a Greek god to myself and thousands of other boys growing up in New England in the 1950’s. This photo shows him hitting a homerun against the Washington Senators in 1960.

Note the swing. William’s classic swing has never been equaled. I recall at least one game at Fenway Park that I attended in which Williams was playing, but I do not recall it well. I was sitting far back and could barely see the field.

I remember best watching Williams bat in televised games. Even from that vantage point, I admired his swing.

I had to drink Ted’s Creamy Root Beer, a local product sold at that time, only became it was TED’s root beer and his picture was on the bottle.

Williams drove a Cadillac. Once, my older brother and friends were able to encounter Williams after a game, either in or getting into his car. (I was not there and do not exactly recall the details as told to me then by my brother.) They asked him, naturally, for an autograph. “I‘m sorry boys, I can’t,” he said (words to that effect), “but if you write to the Red Sox, they will send you an autographed picture.”

 

— Roger W. Smith

      October 2016

 

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Addendum:

 

A follow up exchange via Facebook, October 31, 2016:

 

Bob Stocker: I watched Ted Williams’ last game with my grandfather. I recall only one thing about the game: Williams hit a home run in his last at-bat.

 

Roger Smith:Awesome that you were there.

I wish I had been.

I understand that the attendance at the game was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 11,000

And, it wasn’t televised.

A college roommate of mine from West Springfield, MA was there. He was a junior in high school then and skipped school to attend the game.

Not many people can say, like you, that they were there.

My friend used to like to retell how Ted narrowly missed hitting a homerun in a previous at bat.

He said that Orioles outfielder Al Pilarcik shrugged his shoulders after making the catch and turned toward the stands with a gesture that seemed to be saying, “sorry I caught it.”

“Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Is Sentenced to Prison”

 

 

Shylock:

The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,

Is dearly bought; ’tis mine and I will have it.

— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1

 

 

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re: “Kathleen Kane, Former Pennsylvania Attorney General, Is Sentenced to Prison,” The New York Times, October 24, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/us/kathleen-kane-former-pennsylvania-attorney-general-is-sentenced-to-prison.html

The article states:

The brief, unlikely political career of Kathleen G. Kane, Pennsylvania’s brightest rising star when she was elected attorney general less than four years ago, came to a humiliating close on Monday when a judge sentenced her to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges of perjury and abuse of her office.

She was convicted of illegally leaking grand jury records in an attempt to discredit a critic and then lying about it to a different grand jury. In August, a Common Pleas Court jury here found her guilty of two felony perjury charges and seven misdemeanor counts, forcing her to resign from office.

She broke down in tears on Monday while testifying at her sentencing hearing, pleading with the judge to consider her two teenage sons.

“Maybe I deserve everything I get; they don’t,” she said. “I am not going to ask for your mercy because I don’t care about me anymore.”

Called to testify on her behalf, her son Chris, 15, said: “My mom is like my rock. We just know that we can’t lose our mom.”

She faced a maximum sentence of 12 to 24 years in prison, but her lawyers argued that the loss of her career and reputation was punishment enough.

Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, however, said, “Any lesser sentence than total confinement will absolutely depreciate the seriousness of the crime.”

Ms. Kane grew up in Scranton and worked there as an assistant district attorney, specializing in prosecuting sex crimes.

“In her first few months in office, she rejected [former Pennsylvania Governor Tom] Corbett’s plan to privatize management of the state lottery, refused to defend in court the state’s ban on gay marriage, offered only a lukewarm defense of a voter identification law, and exposed corruption at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. She also gave a promotion to her twin sister — who had worked for years in the attorney general’s office — prompting accusations of nepotism.

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Commentary
:

I don’t care what the facts of this case are. I would care if it were a heinous crime. This case does not involve a heinous crime.

Figuring out what Ms. Kane is guilty of is difficult for the average reader – unacquainted with the case and Pennsylvania politics – like myself.

But, there is no point is sending Ms. Kane to jail.

Separating her from her teenage sons.

It is indicated in other articles about the case that she is separated from her husband and is undergoing divorce proceedings. Therefore, it would seem that the hardship of her being separated for a year or two from her sons will be even worse than if her children lived in a situation where there was an intact marriage with two parents at home.

Of course, none of this mattered, or matters, to the judge. She has to make a point. Has to have her pound of flesh.

It appears that Ms. Kane not only got on the wrong side of the law, but that she was also on the wrong side politically, as far as many public officials were concerned. Perhaps she was a scheming, devious, manipulative, power hungry office holder. Perhaps she abused her office.

I still don’t think she should be sent to prison.

The prison system is full of people who should not be there. Keeping them locked up does no good. It’s a system that perpetuates cruelty, plain and simple. There is no other way to construe or view it.

 — Roger W. Smith

       October 2016

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See also:

“Pennsylvania Attorney General Quits on Heels of Perjury Conviction,” The New York Times, August 16, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/17/us/pennsylvania-attorney-general-kathleen-kane-resigns.html

“Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Is Convicted on All Counts,” The New York Times, August 15, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/us/trial-kathleen-kane-pennsylvania-attorney-general.html

“Perjury Trial Begins for Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania Attorney General,” The New York Times, August 9, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/10/us/perjury-trial-begins-for-kathleen-kane-pennsylvania-attorney-general.html

“Pennsylvania Attorney General Faces Arraignment,” The New York Times, August 8, 2015

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/us/pennsylvania-attorney-general-faces-arraignment.html

“Pennsylvania Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, Charged in Leak Case,” The New York Times, August 6, 2015

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/us/pennsylvania-attorney-general-kathleen-kane-charged-in-leak-case.html

“Fall in Fortunes for Pennsylvania Attorney General,” The New York Times, February 3, 2015

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/us/pennsylvania-state-attorney-kathleen-kane-charges.html

“Grand Jury Recommends Pennsylvania Attorney General Be Charged With Perjury,” The New York Times, January 21, 2015

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/grand-jury-recommends-pennsylvania-attorney-general-be-charged-with-perjury.html

the sacking of Billy Bush

 

 

Who is Billy Bush?

The nephew of former President George H.W. Bush.

The cousin of former President George W. Bush.

A former anchor of Access Hollywood, a weekly television program, and the former host of a nationally syndicated talk and music radio show.

Most recently, until just a few days ago, he was a co-host of the third hour of NBC’s Today show.

I had never heard –- before a couple of weeks ago, that is – of Billy Bush. I had no idea who he was and had never seen him on television.

 

 

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On October 17, 2016, NBC News fired Bush.

Why?

As is well known, he was caught on tape in a vulgar conversation about women with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump before an “Access Hollywood” appearance. The story was broken on October 8, 2016 in the Washington Post, which gained access to the tape.

It seems that practically everyone has seen the tape, which is three minutes and six seconds long and is on YouTube.

On the tape, Bush is heard laughing as Trump talks about his fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women not his wife.

Bush said later that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by what was caught on tape.

 

 

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A few thoughts of my own, for what they’re worth.

I would be embarrassed myself if I were caught taking part in such a conversation and it were made public.

I did not find the conversation interesting or edifying. Bush appears foolish and callow on the videotape.

He is heard laughing — appreciatively, at least on the surface — at Donald Trump’s lewd remarks.

He has little to say himself except for:

commenting with two or three words on a sexy woman’s appearance saying that she looks “hot as shit”;

when Trump says ‘when you’re a star … you can do anything,” Bush answers, “whatever you want”;

he makes an admiring comment about a woman’s legs.

For this, he has been fired?

This is a serious offense?

 

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How would I react if someone made Trump like disclosures to me?

I might react with disapproval, although I doubt I would vent it. If this were the case, I would probably clam up and be stone faced.

I might laugh a bit nervously and try to show I am “one of the boys.”

I don’t know.

Who cares?

The point I would like to make is that our society has gone bonkers when it comes to public morality. For the offense of laughing at lewd remarks about hitting upon women, one gets fired from one’s job?

I don’t care personally about Billy Bush. I am not interested in his career.

But I do feel that his “punishment” is ridiculous.

 

 

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It has been and still is the case in repressive, totalitarian societies that freedom of expression is not permitted. So, that if, say, you insulted Stalin in the USSR, you might have been denounced and executed.

Similarly, I would not recommend, if one lives in North Korea or happens to visit there, making fun of a poster of Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Laughing or showing disrespect in such totalitarian states can be sufficient to get you a long sentence in prison at hard labor, at the minimum.

Laughing at the lewd remarks of Donald Trump in today’s repressive cultural milieu can cause you to lose your job.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     October 2016

unfit to become president?

 

 

 

Here goes.

I want to make a point or two now, while the topic is totally dominating the news and, it seems, is the main topic of practically every conversation.

I have no doubt that few readers of this post will agree with me and that will most will say, “he’s totally wrong.”

But I hate it when people profess moral outrage over things they probably do themselves in the ordinary course of events — or, one should say, in a lifetime. I hate it when people act morally superior or hypocritical.

Few will be inclined to feel the way I do. But I have found, from my own experience, that when everyone thinks one way, it’s usually not right or true — in fact, it’s often the opposite. This seems to happen particularly when everyone is up in arms about a scandal, one that has led to across the board outrage and condemnation.

 

 

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I tend to be apolitical, but I consider myself to be a liberal. I disapprove strongly of many, if not most, of Donald Trump’s policy positions.

Everyone knows by now that Trump was recorded on an audio tape several years ago making crude sexual comments about a particular woman, and women in general, characterizing them as sexual objects whom he thought would be easy conquests; and that now the audio tape has been made public.

Supposedly, this is the supreme gotcha moment, which everyone — the legions of Trump haters, that is — has been waiting for. The smoking gun that proves for once and for all what has already become a forgone conclusion: that Donald Trump is a misogynist and philanderer who demeans women.

What everyone already knew has been proven. He can’t deny it. It’s like trapping a bear.

 

 

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Bill Clinton was caught in extremely embarrassing situations with women, some of whom he appears to have treated as sex objects without forming any other sort of relationship with them. I suspect if more of Clinton’s private talk happened to be taped (which it shouldn’t be), it would not all be ennobling or admirable.

Taping is not right. Exposing others’ private lives and secrets is not right. That’s what’s wrong here, not what Donald Trump said to his friend.

People have a right to privacy.

Most of us would be in the same boat if subjected to the same scrutiny as Trump, including myself. There would be things we have said and done which, if made public, would embarrass us beyond belief. Does this prove that you or I is a despicable, immoral person? Not really. Practically everyone has been guilty of private behavior that they would not be proud of.

Scads of men of my own acquaintance have made demeaning and “sexist” remarks; used foul, abusive language; insulted others verbally; boasted about sexual exploits. It goes on all the time. And people now are pretending to be shocked?

I have seen it in my own family and personal circle from people who were highly educated, cultured, and well brought up. I have done it myself.

 

 

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“I was sickened by what I heard today [Friday, October 7],” House Speaker Paul Ryan said when the story broke.

Really? Sickened? I would say that Ryan is hyper sensitive. And, I am surprised that he has never been exposed to such talk before, which is to say at least heard it, somewhere, either in personal conversations or in the media. He must lead a very sheltered life.

Maybe he needs some Pepto-Bismol to soothe his stomach. But I don’t know. Sickened? He seems to be having a hard time dealing with the Trump revelations. Perhaps he should see a doctor.

“This is horrific,” said Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton. “We cannot allow this man to become president.”

Ms. Reynolds is paid to make such statements. Who does she think should become president? Hillary Clinton, of course. The wife of Bill Clinton, who — it’s as plain as day — is a serial womanizer who often made crude advances to woman he was attracted to. Did Hillary think that this should have prevented Bill from becoming president? I would aver that Bill Clinton’s behavior with women was actually worse than Trump’s.

 

 

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The bad thing about all of this – the worst – is it’s just plain unfair to judge anyone’s fitness for practically anything based on what they have said in their private moments when they were at their worst. Because we all have had such moments, have said or done things that we would be mortified to see made public.

It’s actually a distraction from the campaign.

I don’t care who it is: Donald Trump, Prince Charles, or the guy next door. It’s cruel, wrong, and unfair to record people’s private conversations and spy on their private lives. It will often not be to their credit, but this does not prove that they are bad or unfit for public service, because — if we are going to apply such standards — no one will qualify. If such standards – which are really impossible to meet – are to be applied, grim faced and sternly, to Trump, then, in fairness, we will have to reevaluate the characters and fitness for public or private jobs of practically everyone based on this type of scrutiny. Few would pass. And, many people we admire, including those closest to us, would not come off well either.

 

 

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My father was a well educated, well spoken, and cultured man. He served in the Army during World War II. I am sure he heard his share of curses and ribald stories. He may have told them himself. As a professional musician, he worked in clubs with other musicians who would swap dirty jokes. Does this make me respect my father less or blanch at his character? Absolutely not. If anything, it makes him seem human.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

  October 9, 2016

 

 

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Addendum:

 

My older son, Henry W. Smith, emailed me about this post. His comments included the following:

I agree that some people are judging Trump hypocritically; however, if he didn’t make a lot of misogynist comments, it wouldn’t give people verbal ammunition against him.

What’s unfortunate, to me, is the nature of how it was captured.

Also, not everybody talks that way.

I thought his remarks were very perceptive and that they identified possibly weak points in my argument.

My son’s comment that “not everybody talks that way” caused me to do some more thinking about this.

I said above that “[s]cads of men of my own acquaintance have made demeaning and ‘sexist’ remarks; used foul, abusive language; insulted others verbally; boasted about sexual exploits. It goes on all the time.”

Actually, I have not heard sexual banter or “locker room talk” often. Most men seem to be more restrained and discreet. I have often encountered crude language, vulgarity, talk about women who are considered “hot,” and, occasionally, more frank sexual talk. But, “boasting about sexual exploits” or conquests? Very infrequently.

What I have seen is people saying things — with sexual content or of another nature — that they would they would not want recorded or quoted.

I do think, as my son agreed, that the main issue with regard to the Trump revelations was invasion of privacy, which I believe is wrong. And, I am not shocked by what Donald Trump said.

See also:

“Men Say Trump’s Remarks on Sex and Women Are Beyond the Pale,” The New York Times, October 8, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/us/politics/men-say-trumps-remarks-on-sex-and-women-are-beyond-the-pale.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

The content of the article is consistent with the assessment that men do not ordinarily engage in such talk.

 

— Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Note that I said above:

Taping is not right. Exposing others’ private lives and secrets is not right. That’s what’s wrong here, not what Donald Trump said to his friend.

People have a right to privacy.

A relative wrote back to me, via email, that this was different, because it was an interview (of Trump).

It was not an interview.

What my relative is doing is something that Trump haters and PC types like to do when making accusations. Use facts selectively and twist them to support their allegations.

What Trump said does not invalidate my point.

“Ex-Bronx Science Teacher Pleads Guilty in Child Pornography Case”

 

 

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

— John 3-11 (King James Version)

 

 

It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil;
I am he who knew what it was to be evil;
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant;
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting.

,

— Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

 

 

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I doubt that this post will win me friends or admirers.

It concerns Jon Cruz, the subject of a recent New York Times article:

“Ex-Bronx Science Teacher Pleads Guilty in Child Pornography Case,” The New York Times, September 23, 2016

 

 

 

 

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To briefly summarize the case:

Jon Cruz, age 33, was a teacher and debate coach at the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, one of the city’s most competitive high schools. He was arrested in March 2015 on charges that he persuaded three teenage boys to send him nude or suggestive photographs in exchange for gift cards. He was charged with possessing, receiving, and producing child pornography, whereupon he resigned his teaching positon.

Cruz was a popular figure at the school. He was recognized as a tireless coach for the speech and debate team, which became a formidable national competitor under his leadership (New York Times).

The Times noted:

The charge carries a minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 20. As part of the plea, the prosecution agreed to recommend a sentence of approximately 11 to 14 years. That range is just advisory, however, and Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York will sentence Mr. Cruz in January [2017].

 

 

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A press release dated March 6, 2015 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, available on the Internet at

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/new-york-city-public-school-teacher-charged-producing-receiving-and-possessing-child

announced the charges that were brought against Cruz on the day he was arrested (March 6, 2015) in his Manhattan apartment. The charges were:

 — one count of production of child pornography;

 — one count of receiving child pornography;

 — one count of possessing child pornography.

According to the press release:

For production of child pornography, CRUZ faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. For his receipt of child pornography, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. For his possession of child pornography, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

 

 

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The charges sound grave, and they are serious ones for an educator who worked with teenage boys. But, I do not think it unreasonable to ask, what has Cruz — who has pleaded guilty and who confessed when he was first apprehended — done? Are his crimes deserving of a draconian sentence?

I am not employed by the FBI. But, using layman’s judgment, I would say that the criminal activities Cruz was charged with – in my own words, absent legal jargon – can be “boiled down,” so to speak, as follows:

 — Disguising his identity, Cruz attempted to befriend teenage boys via the Internet and, over time, encouraged them to send photos of themselves to him. He would encourage them to pose erotically. In several of the photos that Cruz received, the boys posed naked with erect penises. In a few others, they were flexing their muscles.

— The criminal complaint indicates that 30 photos of naked boys aged fourteen to sixteen were found on Cruz’s computer in his Manhattan apartment.

That seems to be the sum total of what Cruz did.

It does not seem to be the kind of activity that usually comes to mind when one thinks of child pornography.

What was Cruz NOT charged with:

— rape, groping, or molestation;

— actual sexual acts;

— making the photos public or disseminating them;

— making pornographic videos.

In fact, the only contact with this “victims” was anonymously via the Internet.

 

 

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The court docket, viewable on line at

http://www.plainsite.org/dockets/2kftrqjvh/new-york-southern-district-court/usa-v-cruz/

details Cruz’s exchanges via Facebook and text messages with teenage boys. It provides details about the number and types of photos he obtained. The photos included:

 — several photos of naked teenage boys with erect penises;

 — photos of boys in their underwear pointing to their crotches;

 — photos in which boys struck poses requested by Cruz such as showing their bare feet or flexing their muscles;

 — “thumbs up” selfies of non naked boys.

Apparently, there were 30 photos on Cruz’s computer of teenage boys posing nude. It appears that Cruz will be sentenced to more than ten years. This for possessing 30 photos on his computer of boys posing nude, not engaging in sex acts. (Cruz did occasionally discuss sexual acts with the boys over the Internet, but this did not go any further.)

 

 

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Cruz was charged with, and convicted of, “producing child pornography.” I can see no common sense foundation or basis for such a charge. He did not even take the photos of the boys.

Setting aside for a moment the legal or criminal aspects of the case—I am repeating myself, I realize; but I can’t help asking the question again — what nefarious behavior is Cruz guilty of, what abhorrent things has he done?

–he trolled and, undeniably — to a limited extent — preyed upon teenage boys under age eighteen;

 — he did not force them to comply, but he talked them into sending him photos, which he offered to (and did) pay for;

— he did not produce kiddie porn, nor view (insofar as what is alleged in the criminal complaint) or disseminate such pornography, with the exception of the 30 photos of teenage boys found on his computer, not all of which were pornographic.

In practice (leaving aside legal questions for a moment), what damage or harm has his criminal activity caused?

— an offense to public morals and common decency, compounded by the fact that he was a high school teacher working daily with students (he was not, however, changed with criminal activity involving his students);

 — psychological damage that may have and probably did occur, to a greater or lesser degree, in some of the incidents in which Cruz procured the photos, since he was, using a fake identity, encouraging the boys to engage in questionable and illegal activity with him — specifically, sending him the photos — when they were under age, quite possibly not certain and perhaps confused about their sexuality, and who, because of this, could therefore experience psychological damage or impairment from such activity, activity not initiated by them.

This is questionable behavior. If I were the principal or administrator at Cruz’s school, I would be concerned. If I were the parent of one of the affected boys, I would be more than just concerned.

 

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You know what I think should be done which such offenders? (I realize that few will agree with me.)  They should be required to undergo counseling.

In the press (e.g., the New York Daily News), Cruz was referred to as the “perv,” the “pervy teacher” and the “twisted” teacher.

Granted his behavior was not admirable; nor was it healthy for those concerned, including Cruz himself, I would aver. But, when it comes to perversions, I would bet that many people are or have been subject to thoughts and urges that, if made public, they would be ashamed of, which Walt Whitman had the prescience to point out a century and a half ago.

We should not crucify people for perversions. We should try to help them.

Though the majority would find Cruz’s sexual desires and curiosity perhaps abnormal, strange, or offputting, and though he went about it in a devious fashion, I would imagine that, from a gay perspective, his desires would be considered normal. He did get to the point where he could not control his urges and manage them, and got himself in trouble.

For this, I repeat, I think he would have benefited from counseling.

“I just want to say to my family and friends and former students who are here that I am very, very sorry,” Cruz stated in court on September 23, 2016 when he pleaded guilty.

 

 

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The fact is that punishments for what is considered deviant behavior have varied over time, as mores have evolved. In colonial times, rape, sodomy, bestiality, buggery, adultery, and incest were all capital crimes.

Consider the case of Newton Arvin, the so called Scarlet Professor. Arvin (1900-1963) taught at Smith College for 38 years and won numerous awards for literary scholarship. He was forced into retirement in 1960 after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the possession of pictures of semi-nude males that the law deemed pornographic. Nowadays, possessing such photos (of adult males) would not be considered criminal.

Arvin pleaded guilty, paid fines of $1,200, was given a one-year suspended sentence, and was placed on probation. Smith College suspended Arvin from teaching. Shortly after his arrest, Arvin spent some time in Northampton State Hospital, where he was admitted for suicidal depression.

 

 

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Jon Cruz’s proposed sentence is far too severe. He had much good to offer society and his students. It is a shame to see his life destroyed by behavior of his that did violate the letter of the law and which was not admirable, but which is being made out to be far worse than it actually was. There are remedies other than a long period of incarceration which will last until he is well into middle age. He should have been sentenced lightly, and I would say, what he and many nonviolent offenders like him should get is treatment.

The mother of a recent Bronx High School of Science student said in a letter to the court that she did not condone what Jon Cruz was accused of doing but that he was “not a monster,” and that he had helped many young people grow and flourish.

It is sad to contemplate that few people exhibit a like degree of wisdom, good judgment, and humanity.

Cannot we see the goodness in people as well as their failings?

“[T]he law is a ass–a idiot” (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Chapter 51).

 

— Roger W. Smith

     October 2016

 

 

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Addendum:

John Cruz was sentenced to seven years in prison on July 20, 2017. See

“Bronx Science Coach Sentenced to 7 Years in Child Pornography Case,” The New York Times, July 20, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

See also:

“Bronx Science Teacher in Child Pornography Case Told Students ‘You’re a Big Deal’,” The New York Times, March 27, 2015

On Reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

 

 rws-comments-on-how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people

 

I have just finished reading Dale Carnegie’s bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was originally published in 1936. I took notes as I was reading and got a lot out of it.

The attached Word document (above) summarizes the things that I got from the book– namely, what struck me most, plus some experiences and observations of my own.

 

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My parents had a paperback copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People on our living room bookshelf in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I recall for some reason that the paperback was laminated (I think that is the right word) – it had a sort of plastic tissue overlay.

I made a stab at reading it when I was in the sixth grade. How to Win Friends and Influence People, I thought. I’d certainly like to know how to do that!

I remember reading a chapter which advised the reader not to talk about themselves all the time, but to show an interest in the other person. I decided to try this out on my mother.

We were gathered in the living room of an evening. I said to my mother, “So, how are you today, Mom?”

“I’m fine,” she answered.

“Tell me,” I said (or words to that effect), “How are you?”

She was nonplussed, but answered again that she was fine.

“Well, tell me about yourself,” I said.

The conversation had begun to seem a little odd to her. It went on very briefly, awkwardly, then ceased. My mother couldn’t quite figure what I was up to.

 

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Picking up the book now, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was reminded of an experience my hero Samuel Johnson once had as a reader.

Johnson once read a book offering spiritual guidance: A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. Johnson told James Boswell that he “began to read it expecting to find it a dull book (as such books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an overmatch for me; and this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry.”

Well, I wasn’t sure that I should take Dale Carnegie’s book seriously either. I am suspicious of books that are so popular, and of self-help books. Which it is. And, the precepts laid down by Carnegie could be considered simplistic – they sound good, but can they really be followed? It reminds me of another book that is somewhat similar: Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.

When I read Fromm – as is the case with Carnegie now – I had a similar experience. I found myself saying over and over again to myself, “Yes, so true.” I guess what one might say is that the books are a lot more right than they are wrong, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the many good things the authors have to say.

I do not know anything about Fromm’s background, and not that much about Carnegie’s either, but Carnegie’s precepts were grounded in experience, which perhaps accounts for their impact. And, he writes simply and clearly, a great virtue not usually observed.

 

—Roger W. Smith

    October 2016

 

 

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