Like being in a James Bond movie

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I am participating in a project I think you will be interested in.  I am collecting the names of all of the neo-fascists, the alt righters, the KKK members and the Nazi’s in Prince William County.  I want to thank all of those who provided me with their names last week by writing into my podcast and making such disparaging and dehumanizing comments about me and people of color and allies of the BLM movement-just like Mr. Knight from Prince William County’s Coles District did at the beginning of last week’s podcast. You remember, pointing his finger at the young lady, he said “I hope your family gets shot!”  

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

We rename places and things all the time – Opal Fruits became Starburst, Adam’s Chunk Stuffers became Nestle’s Hot Pockets and Dannon Yogurt is now Activia.          

That is why I think it’s odd that people object to renaming our military bases from the names of Confederate soldiers – traitors to this country – to the names of people we can all be proud of.  How about Fort Colin Powell, Christa McCauliffe Air Force Base or the USS John Glenn. Can these people have a problem with that?

It seems strange to me that many of these same people that cling to one of the ugliest parts of our nation’s history claim the moral high ground when it comes to the pandemic.  As if morals – not science – should have anything to do with it.  The anti-maskers claim that “We have the constitutional right to wear or not wear a mask anywhere we choose.”  Will you give that same “right to choose” to a woman over her own body?  Heck No!

Speaking of choices, the dehumanizing language and tactics directed against women and people of color at the hands of right wing and violent racists continues in this country.  Not every cop is a killer and not every African American male is a thug.  But every young African American male is nine times more likely to be arrested because they are profiled and our country has deployed federal militarized law enforcement squads using excessive force, tear gassing mayors and kidnapping civilians off the street and pulling them into unmarked vans.  This is still America, right? It’s like being in a James Bond movie!

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#4 – The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part III

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“I hope you and your family get shot!”  I served during Vietnam and Afghanistan and I never was greeted this way once.  This man was using “fighting words” language as defined by Martilla v. City of Lynchburg so I’m not just making this stuff up.  My name is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me.

This same man, a white man, was allowed to walk up through a crowd of protesters by police, allowed into a public building to exercise his civil rights and attend a hearing of the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors while the crowd of protesters, largely of color, were denied theirs.  Instead, four of the protesters were threatened with criminal prosecution, threatened with pepper spray, falsely arrested for assault and battery. One by one the four individuals, people of color, were brought into the courthouse, handcuffed and locked up. 

Ironically, while the police were clearly abusing their power outside, they were being heaped with praise by the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors inside.  That’s right.  Praise which included the words “for their steadfast commitment to fairly and impartially enforcing the law, and for faithfully honoring the constitutional rights of all.”  

This is the 50th Anniversary of the Prince William County Police Department.  A police department with a long history of anti-black racism. A police force which only weeks ago used chemical agents and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.  A police force which disproportionately targets minorities by police stops using bias based profiling.  A police force notorious for using excessive force and denial of medical care.  A police force, when nobody is looking, is still choosing to divide a community, not unite one.

The last thing, if I were a county supervisor in Prince William County, that I would want to do is heap praise on a police force that has a culture of corruption and racism-especially if I was elected to make a change. I’m not for defunding the police, just changing the culture.  

In service to America, I worked with the Afghan National Police, Afghan Border Police and other local and regional police forces in that country and it wasn’t any better and it wasn’t much worse.  And for the same reason.  It’s the culture.  Or maybe it’s just because the cops in Prince William County who are anti-black racists have been allowed to run their department with no oversight by people who aren’t.  It’s time for new supervision, it’s time for senior leadership changes starting with the County Executive and working our way down the chain of command.

Either way, I’m Jamie Beletz, It’s not about me.  

The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part II

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When five democrats were elected to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, democrats thought they were going to see a “New Normal”, not the normal reminiscent of the days of Confederate, Alt Right and Anti-Semitic Corey Stewart.  A “New Normal” free of administrators who support conversion therapy or the policies of the Alt Right, Anti-Semitic and Anti-Immigration who were hired by former County Chairman Corey Stewart. 

Hello, this is Jamie Beletz, It’s not about me. 

We learned from President “bone spurs” Donald Trump that passing legislation isn’t enough, but it is whether or not that legislation is implemented.  It isn’t enough to budget dollars to those in need, but whether or not those same dollars get to those in need in time to help them.  Even on the defense side, Trump managed to divert billions of dollars meant to support our troops and instead used them to build his wall.  

We know that if enough people fail to take action, Donald Trump will keep doing things just like he is doing – both now and for four more years.  If good people fail to take action on the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, the Confederate administrators appointed by Corey Stewart will keep their jobs and nothing will change.

Confederate flags, Confederate high school names and Confederate monuments are not the only things in Prince William County that need to be removed.  So do the Confederates at the top of the food chain we call County Administration.

Hello, this is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me and I will see you next time.

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The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors, Part 1

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Okay, it’s true.  I did ask our 19 year old daughter Sarah and her friends to get into our chlorinated hot tub before they came into our house.  Yes, it was to kill the COVID 19 virus.  Yes, I asked them to gargle too.  It’s not like I asked them to drink chlorine straight out of the bottle.  Hi.  My name is Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me…

Our President says that chlorine, bleach, disinfectant….pick your preference, these are  sure fire way to kill the virus!” he says.  

Speaking about our own Jefferson Davis, President “bone spurs” is the leader of the Confederate Party Nationally!  That is unless you include Vladimir Putin.  Again, he is threatening the security of our nation by threatening the defense authorization bill if Congress removes the names of Confederate soldiers from military bases, soldiers who took up arms against America, soldiers who fought for the right to enslave people, soldiers who fought for the right to be racist and bigots.  

So who is the leader of the Confederate Party in Prince William County?  Hands down it has got to be Brentsville County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.  The good news is that after 150 years, the Klu Klux Klan has made great gains in gender equality and racism!  Congratulations Jeanine on becoming the leader of a traditionally all male organization.  And ditto to County Supervisor Yesli Vega who becomes the first openly racist Latino American female to be welcomed into the KKK.  Bravo! Brava!  I don’t want to be sexist.

#1-Prince William County

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Nestled in the cradle of Northern Virginia between the Potomac River and the rolling-hilled farms and wineries to the West, lies Prince William County.  The county was home to some of the most important areas during the American Civil War to both the Confederacy and the Union.  Located some thirty miles from the Union Capital of Washington DC and 100 miles from the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Prince William County was a strategic point each side of the war hoped to control.  The battles at Manassas and Bull Run are studied by nearly every young child who attends public school, no matter where they live in this country.

My name is Jamie Beletz and I live in Prince William County, but this feature story is not about me – it’s about Prince William County.  In the 150 years since the American Civil War ended, it has been known by many other names.  The War of Southern Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, the Freedom War, War Between the States, the War of Secession are just a few names that have been bestowed on this war.   If you are from around these parts, you will choose the name that best reflects the side your family was on – Confederate, Union or Slave – and if you aren’t from around here like me, you are best to just call it civil.  But let me tell you right here and now that this war still rages on 150 years later in Prince William County and it is anything but civil.

More than half of the 500,000 people that live in Prince William County are members of a minority.  Prince William County is an enclave of diversity: African-American, Latino-American, Asian American and others.  Sikh, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Evangelical, Catholic, Unitarian, Bahai.  Prince William County has a significant LGBTQ community.  Any way you slice it, Prince William County is a “minorities in the majority” county and it is a bell weather of civil discord and civil unrest.

Let’s not forget for one minute that the people who made up the Confederacy were not and are not Americans.  They ceased to be Americans when they opted for the enslavement of human beings.  They ceased to be Americans when they opted for violent bigotry and grotesque racism.  They ceased to be Americans when they declared war on America.

Today, the battle between the red, white and blue Americans and the ill-bred, the white and the blue who make up the Confederacy rages on in Prince William County.  However, the political landscape looks much different than it has for decades.  Ironically, while Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, Clinton soundly trounced Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in Prince William County.  First came the self-destruction of Alt Right Confederate leader Corey Stewart along with his “Unite the Right” supporters after 16 years of Stewart tyranny.

Suddenly, the hot sparks of victory still fresh in the hearts and minds of the Americans on Election Day 2019, the Confederacy of Prince William County came a tumblin’ down like a hot knife through butter as America came away with a 5-3 majority led by four African American leaders.  Justice prevails.  But does it?

I’m Jamie Beletz, it’s not about me and next time its’ about….

 

#2 – The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors

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It’s about Make America Hate Again

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The presidency of Donald Trump has created a hybrid fascism in America.  America’s smiley-face-fascism, as comedian George Carlin once put it, one mixed with politeness and protaganism, has evolved into a two-headed hydra.  The second face is cloaked in populism and is filled with antagonism and aggression toward people of color, jews, muslims, LGBTQ, people with disabilities and people who disagree with Trump’s policies. 
This two-headed hydra now occupies the White House, the Halls of Congress, the Supreme Court and fills other places of formal and informal power.  Remarkably, it looks, sounds and twitters just like Donald Trump. One face voices concern for the hate and violence while doing nothing to quell it.  The other inspires hate and violence in our streets, at our schools and college campuses, in our houses of worship and in the very fabric of our culture.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, acts of violence toward Jewish communities in America spiked 57 percent. “Anti-Semitism has become normalized and harassment is a daily occurrence,” says a report by the group. 
“The harassment, deeply rooted in age-old conspiracies such as the New World Order,” the group says, “which alleges that an evil cabal of Jewish people have taken autocratic control of the globe, and Holocaust imagery – faces placed inside Nazi concentration camp ovens or stretched on lampshades – shows no signs of abating.”  This is Donald Trump’s America.  These are Donald Trump’s people. 
In Donald Trump’s America, Republican candidates for Congress are like Trump-endorsed Steve West of Missouri, who says that Adolf Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany before World War II and that Jews were “a remnant of the tribe of Judah that rejected Christ.”  He goes on further to say that what Hitler did during WWII was justified. There are many more Trump endorsed candidates like West running for elected office and Trump is crisscrossing America at public expense to make certain they win.
In Donald Trump’s America, he defends racist and anti-semitic demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that demonstrators on both sides were to blame for fatalities and that the movement to take down Confederate monuments around the country was an effort to “change history” and “change culture.”  Trump views preserving hate filled vestiges of a sad period in our nations history and protecting freedom of speech for hatemongers only for demonstrators who believe like himself as “Making America Great Again.” 
In Donald Trump’s America, a caravan of 8000 children, women and men head north to America from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to escape persecution much like the Jews on ships like Exodus and MS St. Louis.  Again, history repeats itself with thousands of people being denied safe harbor in America due to Trump’s immigration policies based on domestic political realities, rather than humanitarian grounds.  And just like then, Trump accuses spy infiltration by Al-Qaida just as some accused Nazi spy infiltration amongst the Jews as a reason to deny entry.
In Donald Trump’s America, much like Hitler did, when Jews were killed for being Jews, he blamed the victims just like Hitler did.  He said after the recent attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, “They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection and that is so sad to see,” Trump said at Joint Base Andrews before he departed for a campaign swing in the Midwest. “If you take a look at it, if they had protection inside the results would have been far better,” Trump goes on to say. 
Blaming the victims of hate and violence.  Giving those who spew hate and commit violence permission to do great evil. This is our President.  These are our leaders in Congress.  This is Donald Trump’s vision of America.  We cannot sit idly by any more and watch this two-headed hydra continue to Make America Great Again by Making America Hate Again.
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It’s about Steve Bannon and Friends

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I walked through my neighborhood last Sunday and noticed that some of my neighbors had disappeared. Maybe The Rapture predicted to happen last Saturday did happen! But if all the people “who believe were raised up, and all who doubt were left behind,” than why are my friends, children and grandchildren still here? I understand why I’m still here.

Where do you get your news about what is going on in the world?  In case you missed it, we have moved into a new era of news media. For many of us, our sources for news has moved from a few media outlets where journalists reported the news to talking heads, producers, public relation firms and consultants who become the news.  And for others, who are younger, we get it from social media outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, and a whole host of others too numerous to list here.

Yes, that is correct. In all three era’s, the news has been and continues to be prepared before presented to the public whenever possible. However, the difference between the three eras is the manipulation of the news and the motivations behind manipulating it. No longer is influence peddling a commodity for just the rich and famous.  Anybody can do it.

And, of course, there is the fake news and the alternative facts.  There is more fake news and alternative facts than ever these days.  More people are falling prey to character assassinations by other individuals or news organizations protected by freedom of the press and speech than ever before.  Not that some of these people don’t deserve it.  Before, there was a level of responsibility, accountability and even best practices that went along with most of the reporting.  Now, with the playing field much more level and with greater access for the populous comes no censorship, no editors, no fact checking at all.  So which is better?

Frankly, if we could eliminate all of the bullshit that comes with it, I prefer what is happening now over the past.  Even with the Steve Bannon’s of the world out there delivering the fake news and alternative facts, it is far better that we, as a free society, are able to know what is going on in the world in real time without censorship.

“Fuck Censorship!”

Remember when that phrase was shocking to hear or see in print?

 So maybe The Rapture didn’t happen last Saturday after all.  And maybe I shouldn’t believe everything I read or hear on social media.  And maybe I will have to pay back all of the money I charged on my credit cards last week just before “it” didn’t happen.  But then, it’s not about me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s about paying $38 for a $1

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The more I learn about the fraud, waste and abuse coming out of the student loan industry, the angrier I become.

A recent headline from Bloomberg reads “Americans are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt”.  The controversy surrounds about $1 trillion in student loans in default.  Student loans are the second largest category of consumer debt (behind home mortgages) and unlike credit card and medical debt, they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.

It is a cash cow for the student loan industry including student loan predators, colleges and universities who get kickbacks on promoting them and student loan collection companies aka predators.  To the students who use them to pay for tuition at colleges, universities, tech schools and the like, they are the gifts that keep on giving – a ticking time bomb posing as a life preserver.

Imagine paying $38 for that crunchy, stale, high in fructose corn syrup small bag of cereal at the Love’s Travel Stop on US Highway 40.  Never, right?  Well that is what we do every day as Americans to collect $1 from an unfortunate, unknowing kid who wanted to get a college education but couldn’t afford it.  His teachers told him it was okay.  His parents didn’t seem to think it was a bad thing.  Why not?  Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids.  But I am one of those Americans who is paying $38 to collect each $1 and this isn’t how I want to spend my money.

When my electric bill comes for $200 this month, I’m not going to reach in to my bank account and right a check for $7600 to the utility company.  But then, it’s not about me.

 

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It’s about Eric Beletz

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I first met Eric when he was 4 years of age.  I fell in love with him at first sight.  It sounds odd I know.  Falling in love with your kid at first sight?  The funny thing is that I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Eric at first sight.  What makes him even more amazing is that these same people never stop loving him.  I know I never have.
When Eric was in the first grade, his teacher called me in for an impromptu parent/teacher conference.  We had not one, but two teachers and the school vice principal in the room when we walked in for the conference.  Everyone seemed pretty serious so I worried that Eric had done something terrible. 
“Eric has been taking stickers out of my drawer without permission and putting them in his book,” his teacher told us. 
Apparently, the teacher was giving students stickers when the students did something well as a reward.  At the end of each week, the students with the most stickers would redeem their stickers for some type of a reward like a stuffed animal or a game.  It seems that Eric figured out another way to obtain stickers.  For nine weeks straight, Eric was coming in first or second with the most stickers.
“Well, this is stealing and we can’t have this!  I’ll see to this that Eric understands this and that he returns the ill gotten prizes” I told them all.
“Oh no!  Please don’t!  We love Eric!  Eric is wonderful!  He can keep them!” they all said.  I didn’t understand them.  I scratched my head.  “We just wanted to let you know.”
And there it is.  People love Eric.  I love Eric.  Eric has never done anything wrong.  Never.
We moved to Lawrence, Kansas when Eric was 7 years old.  He came home the very first day with a picture of a bird he had drawn and in the background was an American flag. 
“What is that?” I asked.  He put his hands on his hips, shook his head and looked at me looking pretty disgusted at me on his face.
“Gosh Dad, don’t you know?  It’s a Jayhawk and they live in KUSA like we do!”  Ever since that day, the hands on the hips, shaking of the head and the disgusted look on his face has always worked for him when it came to something he wants from me.  Five Roy Williams Basketball Camps, a Danny Manning Basketball Camp and who knows what else.  I’ve never really kept track. 
He has always loved the University of Kansas and the Jayhawks.  It turns out that they have an awesome basketball team.  He loves the Jayhawks so much that he fell in love with one and they gave me a granddaughter and she is a Jayhawk too.  What is so funny is that I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t fall in love with her at first sight either.  I know I did. 
But it’s not about me.

 

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It’s about #ResistHate

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Cheering for the New England Patriots again?  Are you a big fan of the Boston Celtics?  Don’t you just love the Red Sox?  Well, I’m not, I’m not, and I don’t.  But maybe it’s because I am not from the area or maybe it’s because I’m ” a Bum!”

“Get outta heyah you bum!!!” they’d say in a local tavern or from the bleachers.

One thing they’d almost never do at a sporting event is to say they wished me hurt or dead because of who I was cheering for at a game. Not so true in politics these days.  And in some cases, in our modern day culture, hate speech has begun to spring up in our homes, our schools, at local sporting events and at sporting events on the screen.  Now people voice their rage with hate speak about my political beliefs or who or what I supported on the ballot in all of these places.   OMG, it has even made its way into our churches, our synagogues and in our mosques.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Cubs Fan.  We have been very patient.  We waited how many years before we won the World Series?  For me, it was my entire life.  But we didn’t go hating anybody because we couldn’t get our ring.  Okay, some of us hated Steve Bartmann.  But we got over it in one winter and we were back at it when Spring Training came around.  Steve who?

If we were struggling in the standings we changed Skippers.  From Joey Amalfitano to Dusty Baker to Ryne Sandberg to Lou Pinella, when we weren’t winning, we would change managers.  When we struggle in this country, we change our leadership too.  Instead of playing nine innings, Congress and the President campaign every two, four or six years and if we aren’t happy with the job they are doing, we replace them.  There is a democratic process and we all play by the same rules.

I’ve asked my friends what they thought and some of them told me it’s because people consider political issues to be extremely personal.  Some of my friends told me that my comparing sports to politics is extremely shallow.  It is a metaphor with no home in America.  “Politics is serious business and sports is not!!” they say in almost a feverish pitch.

I think some of my friends need to push the “reset” button.  You know, it’s not the enthusiasm or intensity in their belief system that I take exception too.  It’s the character assassination they carry with them when they choose to wade in to the political waters that worries me every time somebody disagrees with them.  I believe this is what makes politics personal.

But then, it’s not about me, is it?

 

 

 

 

 

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