I call them that, these children who are traveling up from Central America, mostly unaccompanied by adults, to cross the southern border into the United States. It’s a long, dangerous trek of more than a thousand miles. Once here, they’ve made it—big time. Current law protects them from being immediately deported because they come from countries not bordering on the United States, such as Guatemala or Honduras.

Once they cross the border these kids become wards of the state, which is obliged to provide food, clothing and shelter for them, and legal defense, over the months and years it will take the government to build a case to deport them. Approximately half of these children will not attend their deportation hearings; they will slip into the shadows instead. Some will stay with relatives already living in the U.S. Who are these people? Are they illegals themselves? Do they live on welfare? Carry infectious diseases? How many kids will be swept into the drug trade or prostitution here?

In most cases, the long journey was facilitated by cross-border gangs like MS-13, which charge from five to eight grand per child. The gangs are big winners in all this.

I call them Kamikaze Kids because they go all out—do or die. They are an embarrassment to the Obama administration because they demonstrate that the border us far from secure. How can we have comprehensive immigration reform if we cannot protect ourselves from an invasion of children?

This is no laughing matter. Each child represents a financial time bomb, costing someone, the taxpayer, tens of thousands of dollars over the months and years needed to raise a child to maturity, to provide a stable family setting, presents on birthdays and at Christmas. Online estimates for child care at the rudimentary level range from $250 to $1000 per day. Who is going to pay for all this? Can the government force you to adopt one of these children? Will it build refugee camps around the country?

Yes, life is horrible in these Central American countries, with their high murder rates. Life is also tough for American children, especially those raised by single parents or relatives in the projects. While Americans may have infinite dreams and good intentions, our society does not have infinite resources. It would be immoral to favor foreign-born children over American children. We don’t have sufficient candy canes to hand out to everyone.

There are those who say this is not the time to talk tough about protecting the border. I say it’s always a good time to protect the border and prevent one more burden from undermining the middle class and thereby putting all our children at risk.

 Copyright 2014 by Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

Early in his May 21, 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations,” in The Atlantic, Senior Editor Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this paragraph:

 “One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. (In 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, responding to violence among young black males, put the blame on the family: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.” Nutter turned to those presumably fatherless babies: “Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”) The thread is as old as black politics itself. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect. And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.”

 Well, how do you win respect? President Obama has spoken public ally about the baggy pants syndrome, especially in the wake of terrible street violence in his hometown Chicago.

 Michael Nutter is African American; in fact, the third African American mayor of Philadelphia. One would think that Coates, a black grievance writer par excellence, would listen to a voice like that, but no. No, because it speaks directly to the issue of black male responsibility, and Mr. Coates doesn’t like that because it diminishes his case for the black man as white victim and therefore deserving of reparations.

 With a sweep of the pen, Ta-Nehisi Coates completely undermines the moral and legal basis of our society. Whites and Asians may be held accountable for their actions but not African American men and women. Or children.

 Not long ago the New York press reported the story of a 14-year-old who was shot by police somewhere in the’ hood—anywhere from East New York, in Brooklyn, to Harlem. I’ll call him Juwan. Juwan was chasing another man at 3 a.m. with a gun when he ran afoul of a street patrol. Juwan engaged the police in gunfire and paid for that action with his life. His aunt was interviewed on local TV. “Why they killin’ our children?” she asked philosophically, meaning the police. No mention was made of the parents. You could safely bet your 401K that the boy’s parents had little influence in his life. It was up to the aunt to raise and bury the child.

 Mr. Coates says that black teen pregnancy is at record lows. Surely, a good thing if true. It is also true, so I have read, that the percentage of black children born out of wedlock has risen from 50% in the 1960s to app. 75% today. Three-quarters of black children born in America today are illegitimate. That is a staggering statistic.

 *** 

What kind of dollar amount to be paid to African Americans would be satisfactory? Who would decide the amount? Mr. Coates mentions several figures based on the average disparity of wealth between blacks and whites, as well as the rather paltry sum paid by the post-WWII German government to the Jews. Mr. Coates acknowledges that the money did not bring the victims of the Holocaust back to life, but was constructive as part of the German nation coming to terms with the enormous damage it inflicted on the Jews. However, those sums are ongoing and include home care for the dwindling number of survivors of the Holocaust.

 Who would decide that reparations were to be paid: Congress, the Supreme Court? Would it be one and done, or a series of payments made over a period of years, as Mr. Coates suggests; a transfer of wealth from white pockets to black pockets based on the average wealth disparity between whites and blacks in the country?

 It is difficult to imagine any such transfer of wealth without a fight. What about victims of reverse discrimination? Would they receive an exemption? Would descendents of Abolitionists pay the same as descendents of slave owners? What about mixed marriages? Would the one drop rule apply? Would children receive a full share? How about felons in prison? Would millionaires pay more than white families in debt?

 Relatives of victims of the World Trade Center destruction were offered substantial sums in excess of a million dollars, by the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, in some cased, based on the deceased individual’s current level of income and age—a simple insurance payout based on actuarial tables. Relatives who accepted the deal agreed not to sue the airlines, for one. No one expected the money to heal their emotional wounds. And that was a tiny bureaucracy, essentially one man, Kenneth Feinberg, compared to the behemoth that would spring up to administer reparations along with the politicians who would be sewing new pockets into their coats to line them with cash.

 In a post-affirmative action world, one would expect substantially less sympathy for reparations to be paid willy nilly to Black America no matter how dreadful the past was for the slaves and their children. There just isn’t the big money needed to fund Great Society programs such as the War on Poverty and War on Drugs, as in the past—unless the President redirects some of the trillions being printed for the purpose of quantitative easing in that direction. The middle class is not moving up the career ladder as in former times. Many college grads are not attaining entry level jobs in their area of study and are living at home with mom and dad.

 Billions of dollars are being consumed by millions of illegal immigrants to pay for social services, health care and for the education of their children. Also to consider are the equally astronomic costs to society of imprisoning the two million prison inmates in this country, which are disproportionately black. It can cost anywhere from 30 to 60 grand per prisoner per year: three meals a day plus a roof over your head and health care.

 *** 

What would White America expect for the transfer of wealth from their pockets to Black America? Would there be a national sigh of relief across the land? Would there be a national thank you note to whites for their generosity? Would Reparation Day become a new national holiday right up there with Martin Luther King Day and Christmas?

 Would White America expect better behaved black youth? Fewer black butt cracks displayed in public as per Mayor Nutter? Fewer illegitimate births? The voluntary disbandment of criminal gangs? Hispanics would receive no reparations and might be none too happy about the black bounty not coming their way.

 Maybe we would hear grumbling, that the check amount was way too small; the check was not delivered on time; a decision that reparation money could be taxed.

 What would Juwan do with his share, were he alive to receive it? Would that sum help to keep him alive or put him in his grave?

What black politicians still living in the 1960d and grievance writers like Ta-Nihisi Coates don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge, is that the era of big spending is over. President Obama might say he is comfortable with a 17 trillion dollar debt but is not showering us with greenbacks. I received a tax rebate check from President George W. Bush in the amount of $600–but not a dime from President Obama. The U.S. Mint will not strike the one trillion dollar coin.

 What all the social dollars spent with the best of intentions to erase poverty and level the playing field has left us with, besides whatever gains that money has made, is a hard core urban terrorist I call the Destructive Black Male (along with his buddy, the Destructive Hispanic Male) in my essay “Trayvon Martin and Race in America.”

 You know, the kind whose bullets fly through windows in the projects and always kill or maiming the grandmother everyone loves or the young student about to graduate from the top of his class, it seems. The kids who never carry a book in school and are the reason why the new normal has brought armed police officers and metal detectors into public schools. They seed the world with their children, dropping them off as they drive on their destructive path through civilization.

 During slavery, so I have read, black families tried hard to keep together or to keep in touch with members sold off to distant places. By contrast, the welfare state has alienated and impoverished the black family, creating new dependencies on the state.

 In the final year of the Bloomberg administration, the Board of Education wanted to close 50 schools. Just close them and start all over. It’s no wonder that parents in Harlem and elsewhere in New York City scream to get their children into charter schools.

 It could be that someday soon Juwan’s aunt will change her tune and complain the cops are running fewer patrols in her neighborhood, and crime is up. Where are the police?

 About a year ago, the Detroit Police Department issued a travel advisory: “Travel in this city at your own risk.” Actually, the core of the city is reasonably safe. It’s those glittering buildings you see at night in the Chrysler “Imported From Detroit” commercials for its vehicles. Beyond that is a wasteland: hundreds of square miles of abandoned homes and weeds off the grid.

 I believe this wasteland will be reclaimed someday by a hardy new breed of urban pioneer.   We have already seen how rustbelt cities like Pittsburgh have been at least partially rebuilt. It might also be true that civilization will demand tough new measures to protect itself against the urban terrorist, walling him out of the city core; constructing a new ghetto reminiscent of the Middle Ages’ ghettos to partition off the Jews. We see indications of this in science fiction movies like “The Hunger Games,” with its gleaming capital Panem; and “Elysium,” where the good life is positioned like a giant flying saucer over teeming, wretched life on Earth.

 The monies that Mr. Coates thinks should be coming due in the form of reparations from White America to Black America will instead be expended to clean up after superstorms like Katrina and Sandy, affecting all races, and constructing defenses against gangbangers and the urban terrorists who have gone beyond the bounds of tough love.

 

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.

Vladimir Putin, President

Russian Federation

Dear President Putin,

                In light of current events in Ukraine, I am dropping y you a line to share a few thoughts with you.  I know you are s busy man, even on an ordinary day when the sun is shinning, much less today.  Even so, sometimes it is good to listen to an outside opinion.

                You have said many times that the breakup of the Soviet Union, of which you were a KGB officer, was a great tragedy; and that you want to restore Russia its former glory.  Not exactly as it was, but close to it, by gathering back the recently independent states of the former USSR, of which Ukraine is a key player, into the Russian Federation.

                That is a very ambitious goal, Mr. President.  Every time the Russian Army goes on the march, ears perk up all over Europe and around the globe.  Many of us remember when the Warsaw Pact marched into Prague in 1968, on the pretext that the West had overrun Czechoslovakia and Pact troops were being sent in to rescue them.  That was a lie, as the soldiers soon found out. 

                Much has changed in the world since those days.  The Warsaw Pact is history, so is Czechoslovakia, so is the Soviet Union.  NATO remains, and I know you are uncomfortable with that.   Some of the former members of the Pact are now members of NATO, for example, the Czech Republic.  You want to draw a line and stop that advance, while, at the same time, trading with Western Europe and the world.  What would Russia’s vast energy resources be worth if you could not sell them on the world market?

                You don’t really want to own Eastern Europe and accept full responsibility for the individual states.  You want to be more like an uncle than a father, Uncle Vladimir, keeping this expanded Russian Federation under a watchful eye.  Well, many of us would like to bring back the good old days here at home.  We liked Ike and would love to bring back the Eisenhower years.  America was simpler back then.   The country was move unified.  Not perfect, by any means.  But those were happy days for many of us despite the onset of the Cold War.

                Perchance, did you ever hide under your school desk during air raid drills back then?  When the air raid siren sounded the lesson stopped.  We got down on the floor and curled into a ball, with our backs to the windows, so that if The Bomb went off nearby, we would not get get flying glass in our faces—not that that would have mattered much, under the circumstances.

                You see, there is one word to describe the Soviet Union to us back then: Fear.  Fear of all those rockets and bombs headed our way if it came to war.  Fear of the apocalypse, of nuclear winter, the extinction of life, as we knew it, on our planet.

                Stop for a moment and consider what Nadia wants instead of what Vladimir wants.

                Nadia teaches literature in a small school outside of Moscow.  She studied English and literature in university.  She visits friends in Moscow and once went with a group of fellow students to Paris.  In the virtual world, Nadia has many friends around Europe and the world.  Right now, she is sending them a snapshot she took of her boyfriend clowning in front of a World War II Russian tank that has been sitting on a pedestal since the end of the war.

            Usually, she gets a warm response to her texts and photos—she has a good eye.  This time, however, a friend in Budapest adds a few words of concern about politics.  Another Web acquaintance in London cancels her planned trip to Moscow in the spring.

            Nadia loves Russian literature and language.  She can recite poems by Pushkin and Yevtushenko, and listens to certain girl bands.  At the same time, she does not wish to be bounded by Russian politics and history.  Why should she?  With the device she holds in hand, she can communicate with folks around the planet.  Nadia is not exceptional, in this way.  She is like young people everywhere.

            More than you realize, Mr. President, you also live in Nadia’s world, as do your two daughters.  You do business with the West, sell energy to the West.  Since Peter the Great, Russia has looked to the West.  It looked to the West for help in the Great Patriotic War.  And the Allies were generous in their response to Mother Russia’s needs.

            Business interests must be based on mutual respect not the threat of military force to settle negotiations.  You understand force and the costs of force.  What did force get Russia in Afghanistan?  You could give the command for Russian troops to occupy all of Ukraine and place it under martial law.  How many thousands of soldiers do you think would be required to secure the natural gas pipelines that run for hundreds of kilometers through Ukraine?    You have an aircraft carrier deal with France.  What would you do if France stopped working on your order and froze Russian assets?  The French also possess nuclear weapons, so it would not be easy to push France around.

            Whatever crimes you might have committed, you are not Hitler or Stalin.  Your hands do not drip with the blood of millions.  I do not think you wish to visit that level of brutality on the world.  Surely, you must realize that by rebuilding  the USSR as the Russian Federation, you will trigger a new Cold War. The return of fear.  You have the power; you hold the lever of history in your hands.  How do you wish to be remembered by history, Mr. Putin?  How do you wish to be regarded by Nadia?

Sincerely,

Hudson Owen

Brooklyn, NY

 

No doubt you’ve heard the news by now.  Probably, you have.  Missouri All-
American defensive lineman Michael Sam declared he was gay, on Sunday, February 9, 2014.  He’s black, and he’s gay, and he’s proud of it.

Michael’s father’s birthday was last Tuesday, which is when his son, Michael, Jr., gave him the surprise of his life.  Michael, Jr. told his father he was gay.

”I was shocked,” Michael, Sr., said. “I’m proud of him. He’s my son.”

First Lady Michelle Obama gushed at how proud she was of Michael coming out like he did before the NFL draft.  He will be the first openly homosexual player to enter the draft.  A former pro quarterback opined that whoever signed Sam might need sensitivity training in the locker room.  The President followed with his public approval several days later.

Then Sam’s father backtracked a bit by saying he had been misquoted and that he was more of a traditional man when it came to sexuality.

One would have thought that the young man had done something special, like discover a cure for pancreatic cancer or  a new species of humming bird in the Central American jungle, or come up with a safer football helmet.  But no.

Sam’s sexual identity was an open secret in the Mizzou locker room.  He knew the liberal media, in particular, would greet his brazen announcement with roaring approval.  What choice did they have, really?  Fortune favors the bold, as they say, and Mr. Sam is nothing if not bold.

Other gay athletes have come out of the closet.  Most say they are glad they did, and it turns out that society and their teammates tolerated the news fairly well. Coming out is not quite the traumatic event it was a decade or so ago.

Actress Ellen Page decided to come out, as well, complaining about the entertainment industry’s “crushing standards” of beauty and success.  Ah, yes, that’s Hollywood.

And here we might notice a core truth about society and entertainment.  It’s one thing for a gay scene to develop in a comedy like Two and A Half Men, for instance, where Charlie and Alan Harper attend a gay party in Charlie’s business interests, and one of the gay characters praises Alan’s “breadbasket;” it would be something else to see two gay characters going at it in bed the way we see straight couples, or threesomes, or foursomes, deep-tonguing and thrashing around, showing serious skin.  Although straight men might well be turned on by lesbian scenes.  Ms. Page could thank her lucky stars that she has such a good job, in the first place.

What if Rock Hudson had come out at the beginning of his career?  Would American filmography have been the better for it?  Don’t we cherish certain illusions?

The truth is, straight America really doesn’t want to know much about Mr. Sam in the bedroom.  Is he the male or the female, or something else?  Does he engage in mutual masturbation, or something else?  It’s really none of our business.

It turns out that transparency has it limits.  It may be all right to come out of the closet, but drawing back the bedroom curtain, for those who do not watch gay porn, is a different matter.

Back in the swinging Seventies, in the era of Oh! Calcutta! and Studio 54,  pundits discussed the notion that sex might be public, after all.  Well, as it turned out, by and large, not.  When AIDS and HIV swept through town, in the Eighties, and the gay bath houses were closed in the interests of public safety, the you-watch-me, I-watch-you crowd surrendered center stage without much of a fight.  Swinging went underground, powered by the Internet.

In the politically correct world of polarities, you are either a virtuous homophile or a hateful homophobe.  There are no shades of gray.  In reality, for those of us who work in the arts, especially, our experiences with homosexuals are more nuanced.  There are shades of gray.  We admire persons for their friendship, generosity, kindness, and professionalism.  We realize that sexuality is identity not something as capricious as a lifestyle.  Identity is the kind of body you want alongside you in bed.

There is a certain brand or fanny-in-your-face showboating, in gay pride parades, for example, that rubs some of us the wrong way.  Certainly not to the extent that we want to see gay exhibitionists beaten and led off to prison.  No, not that.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor.  Discretion is useful.  My private space is valuable to me.  I don’t want you to know too much about me, unless I  invite you into my private space, my life.  If you are older, I don’t want to know whether you wear adult diapers.  I give you your space, you give me mine.

Let’s face it, there is only so far that heterosexuals can go in celebrating the Other, whooping it up for gaydom, without betraying, privately at least, their own identity.

But hey, Mr. Sam, you had a helluva coming out party.  I think you’ve got something there.  So, I’m coming out, too.  Are you ready, world?  I’m expecting a call from the White House any minute now.

By Hudson Owen.  All rights reserved.

CITY OF RAIN   CITY OF RAIN   CITY OF RAIN

Catch this beautiful Brooklyn Love Story now on sale.

I subscribe to several screenwriter’s newsletters.  One of the more interesting is put out by Marvin V. Acuna.  I enjoyed reading his newsletter because he clearly knew the business, and he wrote about other subjects.  He knew something about life as well as art.

 At the conclusion of each newsletter was an invitation to join his Business of Show Institute (BOSI) and pay him $497 to read your screenplay, that’s right, the Hollywood Man Himself.  I felt that I had neglected the screenplay branch of my writing in favor of e-books for too long, so I was interested.  I looked him up on the IMDb (International Movie Data Base).  He was legit alright, with shared producer credits on a number big budget films, most recently Lovelace, the story of porn star, the late Linda Lovelace (1949 – 2002), with an all star cast.  The man was in the know.

 Feeling that I had money to spend, though not waste, I did the deal.  The deal was a half-hour phone call with Mr. Acuna.  Via email, we set up a time of mutual convenience for the Big Call.  I would have much preferred written notes; you can always reread notes to get the exact wording.  However, I could see that from his perspective, with a newsletter to produce, he might well prefer the phone.

 Mr. Acuna had already made it clear, in writing, that he was not an agent or personal manager.   BUT, if he really really liked your screenplay, he might show it to two or three of his pals in the business.  In other words, he put that hope out there along with plausible deniability.  So, he was sort of a stealth agent, you could say.

 I called the number he provided for me from home, on my cell—I had dispensed with my land line.  He joined the conversation; we had a good connection.  He congratulated me on recognizing that screenwriting was a business.  Thus far, the business was funds from my account traveling into his account.

 First off, he launched into my title: The Bullet.  It was too short, he said, it needed to be more explanatory.  This confused me because there are scads of movies with two word titles, and I had sent him my logline.  Everyone knows that the title is always read in the presence of the logline, but, apparently, not Marvin Acuna.

 The rest of the conversation went all over the map.  He asked me if anyone had said a kind word about The Bullet and I said, yes, and gave examples.  He tried to characterize The Bullet as a road film, when it’s much more of a quest drama.  I said: “If I can sell one screenplay, then I can sell two screenplays,” which impressed the Hollywood Man. 

 Toward the end of our conversation, which went well over 30 minutes, Marvin mentioned new, more expensive deals to come, and hung up.

 I waited to see if there would be a follow-up email.  Something, a thanks-but-no-thanks note, would have been appreciated.  The introductory Hi Hudson emails continued, to what purpose, I wondered.  Did Mr. Acuna expect me to sign up all over again to have a new conversation?  Finally, I replied to one of those newsletters, reminding him of our phone conversation and the name of my screenplay.

 Tick tock, tick tock.

 Some semi-producing, semi-referral organizations that read screenplays for a fee will offer a reduced charge for a re-write.  That does not seem to be forthcoming from Mr. Acuna.  In the fullness of time, he might offer me a package to do lunch for a couple of thousand, air fare included.  I am not holding my breath, but I am holding onto my money.

 One more thing: There was a package in the phone deal.  I chose the producers’ package, which never came my way.  So, as to the question: is Mr. Acuna a scam artist—well, you decide. 

 The moral is this: If you want an agent or manager, then address your query directly to them.  They will not charge you a big fat fee at the top.  Agents who belong to the Writers Guild of America are regulated by them and charge standard fees only after they make a deal.  The truth is, you do have access to the film and television industry.  You can post scripts online with a reputable organization like Ink Tip, based in California.  They hold a large pitch festival annually in the Hollywood area, where you can meet execs in person.  There are other such pitch festivals.  You can grab a camera and make your own movie, a short short, and post it on YouTube.

 You can pitch your script online or blast it to an impressive list of studios and production companies.  You might get lucky.  Just like you might win the lottery.  I already knew this.  Once I had a West Coast agent.  Nothing came of it.  He turned out to be a crook.

 My big Hollywood dream is on hold for the moment, as I assess my marketing strategies for the New Year.  No need to re-work my Oscar acceptance speech.  Not for the time being.  I’ve already have it memorized.

 

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.

 

UPDATE: Mr. Acuna subsequently read this article, apologized profusely for not supplying the promised producers’ package, and had one of his assistants email me the same. So, in answer to my question, no, Mr. Acuna is not a scammer.

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The 14 poems in the Living Legend of Peezis Rilly Here were written from 1973 to the mid-1980s. In 2000, I published the poems in a larger collection: The Endless Evolving Trilogy – A Poem Cycle. This year I published The Living Legend as an e-book. And now the CD.

The poems tell the story of Peezis Rilly Here and his friends, who live in a world where war is no longer possible but, still, problems remain. John Lennon said: “Give peace a chance.” So, here, in a whimsical way, is a not-quite-Utopian world. Peezis Rilly Here, Dr. Cerpeption, Dear, L. Vie & Olivence, are all original fictional characters. As such, they belong to the mythology of the Sixties. Peezis speaks in free verse with rhyme—what I call occasional or wandering rhyme–while Dr. Cerpeption speaks in rhymed couplets. A whole lot of energy was released in the 1960s. It was the release of human energy from the first generation born into the Nuclear Age, in response to the awful energies released from the atomic bomb in World War II and the threat of war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The energy shoots through the poems, twisting syntax and the normal order of language, in the way that physical force bends and transforms objects. You will find much humor in this imaginary universe. Needless to say, we live in a very different world today, a darker world not without hope, but all too often visited by bloodshed and violence. Even in the worst of times, peace is not a luxury but a necessity we each hold in our hearts and minds. Some token of peace gives us the courage to move forward through whatever trials the age throws our way. I hope The Living Legend of Peezis Rilly Here becomes part of your bag of valued words and sounds. Hudson Owen, Brooklyn, 2013

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