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To my mind, it is undeniable that, as a species, we have, somehow, throughout the ages, inculcated in men an idea that, when placed in a position of power, they can and should exercise their penchant for violence — like when they have a gun in their pocket, or when given the opportunity to exploit the physically weaker sex. (A 1986 UCLA survey found that 50 percent of males said they would commit rape if they knew there was no chance of being caught.)

It is true that the majority of males keeps their barbarian impulses in check. But can we agree that the minority that doesn’t fosters way too much horror, pain, angst, psychological duress and loss of life among the rest of us?

What else can be said about Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. and now Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix, lest we forget Rodney King in Los Angeles? What else can be discussed, debated and analyzed about domestic and sexual violence against women, as in the cases of Ray Rice and Bill Cosby; assaults on campuses (nearly 5,000 in 2012), and in the military (nearly 6,000 in 2014)?* Alongside the elephantine problem of racial bias in America, what we’re dealing with is abuse of power and its spurious cousin, our culture’s shocking tolerance for violence. Is there anything left to say about these three disturbing and depressing issues?

Maybe someone’s already thought of this, but after hearing about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that 22,000 officers will receive a three-day tutorial on “smart policing,” it occurred to me that maybe the way to address this blight upon our society is to institute a tutorial for boys at the kindergarten level. Can’t leave it to family to do the job; some of these bloodthirsty criminals masquerading as sons and brothers, often come from perfectly lovely parents. Maybe teaching all young boys how to resist their learned behavioral responses should come at the institutional level — if you’re not a racist or rapist-to-be, it won’t hurt you, and will only reinforce the desire in you to stick up for potential victims.

Johnny, you, Jane and Billy come up to the front of the class so we can playact a scene in the schoolyard.

Hire some appropriate, accredited group to produce videos, where kids in cop uniforms act out scenes with guns; birthday party scenes, where one of the girls gets beat up by one or a bunch of boys, and how the good guys react to the situation. Show, don’t tell of a black boy being picked on by an authority figure because of his ethnicity. Follow up with in-depth discussions. Hire psychologist to teach the course. Start brainwashing them in the opposite direction early on! Just like learning how to read and write, make this course part of the common, everyday curriculum. Call it what you like — an expanded Social Studies course just for boys. Yes, just for boys. And then maybe we can come up with one for girls who bully –which, in all likelihood, they picked up from watching boys.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone — even Republicans! — are horrified by recent events in our country. The conservatives’ agreement may be couched in the current discussions about our failed justice system, and how it needs to be reviewed. No shit. Yes, that’s very true. But the bigger problem lies in what we, as a society, expect and allow. Police brutality, hostility to non-whites, sexual violence against women and the treatment of sexual victims as instigators are so commonplace that, up until now, such events merited no more than a shake of the head before everyone moved on. I hope against hope that this important moment in time will not go the way of Sandy Hook Elementary, when the entire country’s momentum was on fire to pass definitive gun control legislation, only to sputter again into the arms of inconsequence.

We know that something is very, very wrong. It’s time to consider radical new approaches for creating a new standard. Have any ideas for fixing this thing? Get them out into the world! Someone with the power to enact good ideas has to be looking for answers.

* These figures only represent reported assaults.

Back when I was 15 years old, I decided that television shows were insultingly stupid, and turned off the set for good. Maybe one laugh track too many sent me over the edge, I can’t really remember. I am in my fifties now and still don’t watch TV, even though I know it is considered the ultimate medium for modern, envelope-pushing entertainment. I do try to watch the occasional cable show that trusted friends rave about and insist I sample. I’m usually disappointed. Don’t know why, maybe by now I’ve just programmed myself not to like watching the tube. This does not make me feel superior to anyone; it’s just not my thing.

Reality TV in particular has me scratching my head. I actually know people who watch Real Housewives of Atlanta, and I swear they must be high on crack. What in the world? I’m supposed to be entertained by that? I lasted about five minutes; by then the pain was too extreme!

And then a casting director friend of mine, who often works for reality TV productions, told me about a CNBC docu-series called American Made that’s coming to a TV set near you, and it actually piqued my interest! Maybe it’s because I’m a hard-working small business owner but it sounded great. The show plans to profile self-made millionaires, but not the kind you might imagine. Instead of your over-profiled, overnight tech millionaires or the white collar corporate types making fat bonuses in their sleep from intangible products like derivatives and other “financial instruments,” this series plans to feature self-made success stories from the blue-collar trenches. Some of the people they’ve already got lined up sounded like unique individuals with true, inspirational chops.

So the suspicious and reality-show-averse skeptic in me asked her why any millionaire would want to be bothered with doing a show like this? Aren’t they too busy running their businesses? “Well, for starters,” she said, “these are smart business people, and their companies are going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity.” Duh. “And the people we’ve been talking to are eager to pass on the message that it’s okay to dream big! That if they can make it, anyone can.”

Well, that’s a message I can get behind. My husband and I started our small business 17 years ago without much cash and a lot of enthusiasm. Today, while we are not millionaires, and still confront the struggles and challenges of any small business owner, we live well. A lot of that has to do with the privilege of being self-employed, which affords us the opportunity to sketch out the quality of life we want for ourselves. And our business, which pays the bills, allows us the freedom to pursue our creative projects without stress–I’m an author, my husband is a sculptor.

Damn, now I wish we could get on that show. Have to be a millionaire first, though! The folks at American Made are looking for blue-collar success stories from the service industry, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, manual labor, infrastructure sectors and anything in between. I thought this was information worth passing along. If you’re someone who built your business from the ground up, or if you have relatives or friends who fit the bill, I say let these guys know about you! We can use some working class heroes.

As consumers we take some comfort in knowing that by using a credit card to pay for products and services, should something go wrong, we can always ask the company to reverse the charges. Typically, the credit card company will investigate the dispute and come down on one side or the other. Case closed. But what happens when certain guidelines are written by some well-meaning executive named Mr. Not That Smart? Or Miss Didn’t Think It Through? In one case, Visa’s approach seems to be “the customer is always right,” regardless of the facts.

In light of a recent experience involving a product shipped from my company to a customer who claimed she never received it, I called Visa and spoke with a manager, who explained their policy to me in this way:

When a package is delivered to a customer, the shipper is responsible for obtaining the cardholder’s signature as the ultimate and only acceptable proof that the package was delivered. Proof of delivery by the carrier is not enough. Even if a neighbor signed for the package, and even if a delivery agent from US postal Service or Fed Ex were to state that they personally delivered the package, the shipper is still liable if the package is lost or stolen after delivery.

This rule applies even if the shipper clearly states on its website that it is not responsible for packages that are lost or stolen after delivery by the carrier. This rule also applies even if the shipper makes it clear that customers should choose the “signature at delivery” option (for an extra charge) if there is any risk of the package disappearing from their property (the customer declined that option).

According to Visa, the only way for a shipper to protect itself is to require signatures for all packages–even though most customers choose regular US Postal Service, for which no signature option is available.

I can tell you that if any business owner were to require that all customers be home to sign for packages before agreeing to sell to them, they would have no customers! It’s a nonsensical policy with no basis in reality. I contacted Visa corporate headquarters to try to get the name of the person responsible for putting this policy in place (stop laughing!), and to give them an opportunity to respond. But I only got as far as their PR department. A representative emailed me back, saying, “We are investigating the specifics of our chargeback rule, and will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for your understanding and patience.” That was nine days ago. Zero communication since then.

I’m visualizing a bunch of “decision makers” frantically trying to figure out why they ever came up with this crazy rule. Whatever happened to common sense? Obviously stuff happens and packages occasionally disappear. And in certain cases, some people–to be nice, we’ll call them “the disingenuous”–just don’t want to pay for merchandise. They like “free” better. As far as Visa is concerned, businesses can get taken to the cleaners all day long as long as their customers are happy. But businesses pay Visa a percentage of their sales. Aren’t we customers too?

I guess I must be on a bad roll because my last post was about the anti-business practices at the California Labor Commissioner’s office. Maybe the third time will be the charm, and I’ll write about how the IRS finally saw the light and reimbursed me for a penalty I’ve been fighting with them about. Honestly, I know I’m right!

Fears come in all shapes and sizes–death by drowning, falling from a great height, having a brain fart during a speech; mine is getting caught up in the justice system. You know, wrongfully accused of a crime, debilitating legal bills, prison time with really mean people. Well, I didn’t quite go there but I did get trapped in the discriminatory practices that masquerade as the rule of law down at the California Labor Commissioner’s (LC) office. The experience taught me that I am not wrong to fear the wheel of bureaucracy.

I had the good fortune of hiring a professional scammer (PS) as my office manager. I’m dying to tell you all the details but your eyes would glaze over. Suffice it to say that after working two days for my company (wage value: $320), the PS filed a claim in the LC’s office for $4800! After spending a huge amount of time, energy and money fighting this claim, I was reminded that Lady Justice is no lady, and more often than not, she’s just a bitch (think honor killings, unprosecuted sexual assaults in the military, and other calamities endured by so many). The bitch is especially present if you are an employer in a stare down with the California LC. As far as the LC is concerned, employees can do no wrong. The labor attorney I consulted with warned me about this, and it’s a well-known fact to everyone in the legal community.

I provided all the necessary documents to prove my case. The PS’ lies under oath were easily disproven. At one point, the hearing officer looked at me, shook his head and rolled his eyes over the woman’s shenanigans. However! Even though he had total discretion over the proceedings, he chose to nail me on a technicality — my misreading of one of the claim’s instructions. I believe he thought he was doing me a favor when he decided to split the judgment down the middle. I only had to pay her a mere $2500! Isn’t that great?!

Why, oh why hadn’t I Googled the PS before hiring her? After the fact, I learned that filing fake lawsuits is her thing. Plus, I fear she may be a psycho. As I searched the web I also found that she started a Facebook page using my company name. The page’s photo is of a woman with a gunshot wound between the eyes, blood streaming down her face. Doesn’t that make you feel warm all over? I’ve contacted Facebook about the fake page, but hearing back from a human being at FB is an epic moment in anyone’s life, and I’ve not yet had that pleasure.

A governmental body, which looks out for employees is a good thing — plenty of corporate hoodlums out there. But what about us employers? Especially little guys like me? Small businesses created 8.7 million jobs between March 2011 and March 2012. And of the 188,000 new jobs created this June, 45 percent of them were created by companies with fewer than 50 employees. I think we count for something. No, I’m being too modest. We’re crucial to the economy! My reaction may have been overly emotional, but when I got the ruling in the mail, I felt like shutting down the joint.

Why is this state so unfriendly to employers? And more specifically, what exactly is the penalty for perjury at the LC’s office? They make you swear to tell the truth, make a very big deal out of lying under oath; and they record the proceedings, although why, I couldn’t say. The PS said one thing in the first hearing, then completely denied it in the second hearing. I pointed this out, but no one cared to verify the recordings. The tired excuse is that the LC’s office is understaffed and underfunded. Guess what? I don’t care, and neither does my small company’s bank account.

Consider yourself forewarned. If you are an employer and you get dragged into the LC’s office, chances are you will lose. Filing an appeal involves hiring an attorney, and paying the employee’s legal fees if you lose again. And chances are that you will lose.

While out of town on business, my husband and I recently found ourselves in a movie theater, where the only thing playing within a reasonable time frame was a superhero movie. As a result, we got to sit through trailer after trailer for upcoming superhero movies! Which got me ruminating on the currently insatiable appetite for these films. Could it be that, at this particular time and place in history, we feel helpless? Do we yearn to be saved by someone (preferably dashing), who can swoop in and, against all odds, turn the world right side up again?

I know I certainly feel sideswiped by my sudden lack of privacy. Between the Snowden revelations and the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, our smart phones, et al, the word “unknown” is about to get railroaded out of the dictionary. Going off the grid isn’t really an option; I run a business, I shop, I drive, I order movies from Netflix, I breathe! But every day brings more evidence of the surveillance state we now reside in. It’s very disturbing to me, and I don’t know what to do about it. I know I’m not alone.

And then there are the near-weekly mass shootings in our schools, movie theaters, places of worship and jobs. I know it isn’t only about too many guns out there, but the hard-to-ignore facts are that no other industrialized nation has as many violent gun incidents as the United States. And the brainsick NRA seems to have an otherworldly stranglehold on our legislators, all of them (Republican and Democrat) shaking in fear like frail, brittle leaves in the wind because nothing, no, nothing matters more than re-election to a politician. This is so sad and so wrong; but a solution remains frustratingly elusive.

While we’re on the subject of our legislators, I have been felled by the recent cringe-worthy and bile-producing display of utter contempt, scorn and even hatred heaped upon Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held in captivity for years by the Taliban. In a right-side-up world, this soldier would be a darling to conservatives. But because Barack Obama orchestrated his release, Bergdahl became the republicans’ favorite new dartboard. Notice I say, “became?” That’s because all formerly outraged republicans have grown strangely silent on the issue since the Washington Post June 11 article landed like a horsehead in their beds. It lays waste to any doubt that Bergdahl was a troubled young man with a history of psychological challenges.

Honestly, the full-of-shit factor in Washington was so pronounced on this issue that anytime I read or listened to the news I felt like I was being whacked on the side of the head by all that airborne crap. What if he was your son? It made my heart hurt.

This country is being held hostage by a group of monsters masquerading as members of congress and senators from the Republican Party. Nothing is too big to destroy if it is spearheaded by Barack Obama; and that goes double for America.

Where’s a superhero when you need one? This is a job for Superman.

The New York Times recently reported on the incidence of artists and dealers taking their galleries to the streets in vans, RVs and trucks. Why? For the obvious reasons–sky-piercing rents in New York City; artists sick of waiting for a gallery invitation; renegades wanting to turn convention on its head; mooning the establishment is fun!

The democratization of the creative is in full bloom. Unknown and ├╝ber-famous artists in the literary, cinematic and musical realms are no longer waiting around to launch their work. There may be a lot of really bad writing, music and film out there right now (as there ever was), but the playing field is somewhat leveled. You might not have the distribution muscle of the big boys, but if you circulate your stuff and work it really hard, perhaps someone will notice, maybe even the big boys. It’s either that or having your masterpiece sit in a drawer for the rest of its formerly stillborn life. So, why shouldn’t visual artists and those who market their work take the food truck concept and roll it in their direction?

Not surprisingly, big gun art dealers in New York had a hard time keeping the contempt out of their quotes for the article. Oh, you know, artists will never be taken seriously without serious gallery representation. Excuse me while I buy a painting from an artist squatting on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Back in 1990 when we first opened Galerie Lakaye out of our Hollywood home, where it still lives, we got those same kind of smirking comments from the establishment, but we didn’t care. We were covered in every section of the Los Angeles Times over the years, but never in the Art section; and our exhibitions were never reviewed. (The director of the California African American Museum in Los Angeles told me that their exhibits are never reviewed, either. What’s that about?) So, we took our gallery on the road back then too; not in trucks, but almost. We participated in every art fair we could find — from prestigious and expensive trade shows in fluorescent and frigid convention centers to local street fairs. We also took the art to municipal venues, restaurants, private functions, fundraisers, public lobbies and basically, to whoever would let us install work on their walls. And it worked. We met many of our clients at these events, sold lots of art, and many of the artists who showed in our gallery have since gone on to exhibit in museums around the world.

I didn’t ask the artists for exclusivity because I think they should be able to show their work wherever and however they can; so the museum exhibitions that followed for some of the artists didn’t necessarily happen because of us. They happened because we worked tirelessly, and the artists worked their asses off on their own to create and promote their work.

Dealers provide a valuable function in the art world: the hard work of developing a client base, hosting and installing exhibitions, creating marketing materials on the artist and the work; providing introductions to art professionals and institutions the artist may not have access to, and more, including taking their art on the road. But the world waits for no one, and neither does art.

I say ignore the disdain of backward thinking gallerists and critics in the media and elsewhere, and do whatever it takes to get visibility for your work. With original ideas and technology to hold our hand there’s no reason not to.

Here’s a fun question for you to consider. Which of these most sets your teeth on edge?

  • the banking industry
  • the insurance industry
  • the pharmaceutical industry

This week my answer is… the airlines industry!

A couple of months ago, NPR’s Audie Cornish asked this question of Doug Parker, CEO of the new American Airlines (recently merged with US Airways): “Now, public perception of your industry isn’t good these days. I mean flying is not something most people really look forward to. And then we’re in this era of extra fees, packed flights, is that going to change and, you know, how? How do you see it changing?”

Changing? In this era of frenzied customer service this is the only industry that charges you for changing your mind. A business contact told me that QVC lets customers return food they’ve eaten! Retail behemoths like Macy’s and Amazon.com go out of their way to make returns easy. Corporate hotel chains allow cancelations with 24 hours notice or less. Airlines?

The Washington Post reports that for the first nine months of 2013, American Airlines charged passengers $650 million for reservation change fees.

I’d like to reserve their ass.

And can we turn now to legroom? Remember how you used to be able to take over empty seats once the last passenger was on board? Being able to sleep stretched out on an intercontinental flight was like, yessss! Which brings me to my recent episode on United Airlines.

Packed flight. Three empty seats two rows ahead. My husband and I make the move. We are happily stuffing our gear under the empty middle seat when Miss Efficiency whirrs up, well-oiled metal gears in place.

“You’ll have to go back to your seats,” she says.

Now these are not First or Business Class seats (even I know I can’t slip into the room behind the curtain); they are in a newly invented class within the main cabin called “main cabin extra,” “economy plus,” “economy comfort,” “even more legroom,” “premium economy,” or “main cabin select.” You know they squeezed all the other rows tighter together so they could charge more for these seats.

I’m sure I should be ashamed to admit this but I can’t afford the extravagant fares they charge for more legroom, free booze and better food on airplanes. I don’t have a boss who pays my expenses because my boss is me! I always fly economy. Thank you for your sympathy.

OK, back to Miss Efficiency.

“Why do we have to move?” I say. “These seats are empty?”

“Because these seats are more expensive,” she says.

“Yes, but there’s no one to occupy them,” I say.

“But it would not be fair to the people who pay more for them,” she says.

We look at each other in puzzlement and start to gather our stuff.

As she walks away, I say to my husband in a low voice, “This is bullshit.”

Her supersonic ears hear me. She stops cold, pivots and says,

“Would you like me to call the agent?”

I look at her, wondering WTF she’s talking about and carry on with the process of moving back to our seats. Twenty minutes later, Miss Efficiency is back with another woman carrying what looks to be a giant cellphone from the eighties or a black oversized antennaed brick. I’m wondering if the agent intends to strike us with it.

“I understand you’re having a problem?” she says, chirpy as hell.

“What problem?” I say. “We’re sitting in our seats, aren’t we?”

“Well, since you used the profanity,” Miss Efficiency explains.

“Profanity?” I say, turning to look at my husband.

“Yes, the profanity,” she says.

Visions of being kicked off the plane and being held for questioning arise before my eyes like a creature uglier than Miss Efficiency.

“Everything is wonderful,” I say, smiling.

They turn and walk away — efficiently.

“Profanity?” I say to my husband. “Bullshit is profanity?”

And a voice in the seat next to me says,

“In America it is.”

I turn to see a very young woman, who has decided she should explain the ways of America to me, a New Yorker since the age of eight. I say nothing, open my book and read until we deplane. And as we walk toward the baggage claim area, a voice on the loudspeaker announces:

“When going through the security area, making inappropriate remarks is forbidden. Please avoid making jokes.”

I love flying in the 21st century, don’t you? What to do when the airlines seem to have all the cards? An aggrieved populace has been known to change evil corporate behavior before. It’s a time-honored tradition. In America it is, anyway.

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