A tribute to Bishop Robinson

Years before Bishop Robinson became Baltimore’s first black police commissioner, I made this observation: That man deserves to be police commissioner.

It was, if memory serves me correctly, 1980. Jawan McGee, a black East Baltimore teen, had just stopped off in a pizza shop.

A white off-duty Baltimore police officer happened to be in the same pizza parlor. When McGee reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette lighter, the cop pulled out his gun and fired several shots.

McGee was wounded and left paralyzed for life.

The cop swore the shooting was justified. He claimed McGee was casing the pizza shop for a robbery, and that he thought the cigarette lighter was a gun.

Outraged Baltimoreans didn’t buy one word of it. They demanded, at the very least, that the cop be fired. Others wanted criminal action taken against the officer.

Community forums were held so that citizens could come and give their opinions about the McGee case. One of these forums was held in Kweisi Mfume’s district. Mfume, at the time, was a city councilman from the Fourth District.

Mfume was supposed to be one of the panelists at the forum, but he arrived late. Activists had demanded that Donald Pomerleau, then Baltimore’s police commissioner, come to the forum and face the heat for McGee’s shooting.

Pomerleau, upon learning of the demand for his appearance, must have decided to get in touch with his inner wuss instead. And his inner wuss must have told him, “Facing the heat isn’t your job.”

So Pomerleau decided it was the job of one Col. Bishop Robinson to face the heat. Pomerleau sent Robinson in his stead, and the reception he got was more than just citizens expressing their opinions.

It was more like citizens venting their outrage, and all that outrage was directed at Robinson. The heat Robinson had to face rose to volcanic proportions.

Even 33 years later, I remember my reaction as I sat there and watched Robinson get skewered: “Whatever they’re paying this guy, it ain’t enough.”

Later, Mfume did show up, and he got some skewering himself, from a local activist. The exchange between Mfume and the activist left the councilman visibly miffed, and we discussed the night a few days later.

Mfume said what disturbed him most was that the charges the activist made against him weren’t true. Then I gave him my take.

“You know, you got off easy. What you got was nothing compared to what Bishop Robinson got.”

Mfume replied that he had noticed the miffed look on Robinson’s face when he arrived and had wondered what was troubling the man.

I have no way of knowing what was going through Robinson’s mind at the time of this crisis. But I have a hunch that he concluded that someone was going to pay for all the abuse he took.

That someone turned out to be the cop that shot McGee. At his trial board hearing, Robinson subjected that officer to the most ruthless line of questioning a cop had ever faced, according to news reports at the time.

One year later, Pomerleau must have grown weary of sending black officers to face the heat he should have faced and resigned. Frank Battaglia succeeded him and retired in 1984. Robinson served as commissioner from 1984-1987.

It must have been quite a journey from 1952— when Robinson joined a force that didn’t allow black officers to patrol white neighborhoods or ride in patrol cars— to reach the top of the department.

Robinson, I’m sure, had to endure plenty of abuse and unfairness in what was a backward police department when he joined it. That’s one of the reasons I was overjoyed when he was named police commissioner in 1984.

Ravens didn’t deserve to make playoffs!

I believe in the merit system: rewards and kudos should go to those who earn them.

On Sunday, December 29, 2013 the final playoff spot in the National Football League’s American Conference went to the team that deserved it: the San Diego Chargers.


Gregory Kane

The Chargers deserved that spot more than the Pittsburgh Steelers. They deserved it more than the Miami Dolphins, and they sure as heck deserved it more than the Baltimore Ravens, who closed out the 2013 season by stinking out their home stadium against the New England Patriots and then choking in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.

After the Patriots drubbed the Ravens 41-7 at M&T Bank Stadium, the litany on local television stations was how Ravens fans were still hoping that their team would make the playoffs.

I had to listen to this drivel for about a week. What were those hoping the Ravens would make the playoffs basing those hopes on? It couldn’t have been the team’s performance throughout 2013.

The Ravens had to face the Bengals in Cincinnati, where the Bengals hadn’t lost all year. They were coming off that pathetic loss to New England. They still had trouble converting third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays.

A team that can’t consistently make first downs on third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays simply isn’t of playoff caliber, much less championship caliber. Or, as the late former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi is reputed to have said, “If you can’t gain one yard on a play, you don’t deserve to win.”

Ravens coaches and management didn’t need this week preparing for a playoff game they would probably lose anyway. They need this week to reflect on how the Super Bowl champs of the 2012 season got to this state. I have a few theories:

  1. A Ravens management that refused to abandon its delusion that Joe Flacco is a first-tier quarterback, up there with the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

Flacco is at best a second-tier quarterback. He is certainly not worth the $20 million a year the Ravens are paying him. He spent nearly all of the 2013 season ranked near the bottom of the league in passer rating.

Joe Cool was at times brilliant; he was just as often downright awful. He threw more interceptions than touchdown passes, for heavens sakes. A quarterback that does that and collects $20 million a year is cheating somebody.

  1. A Ravens management that shipped wide receiver Anquan Boldin – the one player most responsible for the Ravens successful Super Bowl run of the 2012 season— to the San Francisco 49ers.

Rather than tell Flacco what they should have told him, which would have been something like, “You’re good, kid, but we all know you ain’t worth $20 million a year.” The Ravens honchos tried to cut Boldin’s salary. When he didn’t go for it, they sent him packing to San Francisco, where he helped the 49ers to a 12-4 record this season.

Oh, and the 49ers, unlike the Ravens, DID make the playoffs. The same day our beloved Ravens were getting their heads handed to them by the Bengals, the 49ers faced a tough Arizona Cardinals team— one that had beaten the Seattle Seahawks IN SEATTLE the week before— in Arizona.

After Boldin scored a touchdown for the 49ers, game announcers told viewers what “a steal” it was that San Francisco had gotten him for only a sixth round draft choice.

It’s not “stealing” when the party that is being “stolen” from aids and abets in the theft. What those announcers meant to say was this:

Trading Boldin for a sixth round draft choice was the most idiotic player personnel decision Ravens management has ever made.

  1. The Ravens had one of the worst offenses in the league, and their pass rush all but vanished during the latter part of the season.

  2. The Ravens had trouble beating the elite teams of the league.

The top AFC teams in 2013 were the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Irsay Colts. The Ravens beat the Bengals once and then lost to them. The Broncos and Patriots routed the Ravens completely.

This team has quite a ways to go before it’s in the class of the Denver Broncos; New England Patriots; Cincinnati Bengals; or the Irsay Colts.

Christmas music: The good, the bad and the ugly

Is the term “Christmas music” an oxymoron?

For those that love the stuff, it most certainly isn’t. For those that detest the genre, the term oxymoron doesn’t even begin to describe how they feel about it.

I fall in the camp with one Duke Ellington, who is said to have proclaimed that there are really only two types of music: good and bad.

There are Christmas songs, I love, others I simply don’t like and those that I downright detest.

The top of my “Very Best Christmas Songs” list includes only three titles:

  1. The Little Drummer Boy, and it has to be the Harry Simeon Chorale version. No other version will do, or is even worth listening to, for that matter.
  2. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. Really, is any further explanation needed?
  3. Silent Night, the Temptations version please.

Some clarification might be in order: the Temptations actually had TWO versions of “Silent Night,” if memory serves me correctly. The first came out sometime in the mid-1960s, when David Ruffin was still with the group.

The second, far superior version came out after Dennis Edwards had replaced Ruffin as a Tempt. (That version of “Silent Night” might be the only song with Edwards singing the lead that was better than Ruffin singing the lead.)

Tempts fans might need to help me out here: I believe that Eddie Kendricks sang the lead through the entirety of the first Temptations “Silent Night” song. In the Edwards version, several Tempts took turns singing the lead.

And let me clarify what I mean by “Tempts fans”: if you know only two Temptations songs and one of them happens to be “My Girl” and the other one isn’t, then you’re not a Tempts fan.

If, on the other hand, you’re familiar not only with every Temptations hit but also know what was on the flip side of the .45 that hit was on, you’re a Tempts fan.

If, 45 YEARS AFTER IT HAPPENED, you’re still devastated that Ruffin left the group (or was fired, depending on which story you believe), then you’re most definitely a Tempts fan.

On my list of Christmas songs that are good— “good” being defined as “kind of cute”— are Gretchen Wilson’s version of “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” and David DeBoy’s “Oh, I Want Crabs For Christmas.”

Making this “good because it’s kind of cute” list doesn’t come easy. I have some very, well, unusual ideas about “cute.”

As a rule, I don’t like cute. For me, the list of cute things is short indeed. That list includes:

  1. Kittens
  2. Puppies
  3. My grandkids
  4. Very little else

Now on to the list of what I consider the bad Christmas songs:

Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

Oh, no he ain’t Bruce. After listening to your version of this holiday classic, Santa’s going to get as far away from town as his sleigh and reindeer will take him.

Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song, or anything else by Adam Sandler for that matter.

That monstrous version of “The Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby set all music back by at least 500 years.

I’ve covered the very best, the good, and the bad. Now I move on to the downright ugly.

Falling into that category is any Elvis Presley Christmas song.

Can we all agree that not all musical artists should do Christmas songs? Some, perhaps many, should. But most need to steer clear, darn it.

Elvis was one of those artists that simply didn’t know his limitations. His forte was rock and roll, and he was barely good at that.

There is one use, and one use only, for an Elvis Presley Christmas song.

That would be torturing suspected terrorists. Trust me, once terrorism suspects hear Elvis’ “Blue Christmas,” they will either start to talk and tell us everything they know or they will beg to be water boarded.

‘Bodymore’ once more

As of December 16, 2013, the number of homicides in Baltimore reached 224. That’s the highest total in several years.

If you believe Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the increase is easy to explain. According to Martin O’Shameless himself, all Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has to do is adopt the “crime-fighting” strategy O’Malley used when he was mayor of this town.


Gregory Kane

You might recall what that “crime-fighting” strategy involved: cops locking up everything and everything that showed traces of protoplasm and human DNA, even for the pettiest of crimes. The theory was that with such mass arrests, cops might indeed nab a murderer or two.

The number of homicides did indeed go down during the O’Malley regime, but they continued to drop under former Mayor Sheila Dixon and Rawlings-Blake, who abandoned O’Malley’s “let’s lock everybody— including parking attendants— up” policy.

O’Malley was elected mayor just as homicides— and crime in general— showed a downward trend. It’s not that his policy was effective; O’Malley just got darned lucky.

So what IS driving Baltimore’s homicide numbers upward? Several years ago, when I still worked at The Baltimore Sun, I took a bus trip with a group of local black men to Philadelphia.

At the time, Philly was averaging a homicide A DAY. You read that right: those inclined to murder in the City of Brotherly Love were so off the hook that they were dispatching their victims’ daily.

The idea of the trip was that perhaps concerned black men from Baltimore and Philly could put their heads together and perhaps come up with a strategy for lowering black-on-black homicides in each city.

The mayor and police chief of Philadelphia addressed the Baltimore group. Each described the typical homicide victim AND homicide perpetrator in their city: young, black males with third or fourth grade reading levels with criminal records from fatherless homes.

That same profile could apply to black-on-black homicide in Oakland, California; Detroit; Newark, New

Jersey— well, fill in the name of any large American city here. And it sure as heck applies to Baltimore.

There are far too many young black men here who read at the third or fourth grade level, have criminal records and come from fatherless homes. I left that meeting in Philly feeling a bit disheartened.

Those young black men that fit the homicide victim/perpetrator profile just were not going to go away. Inevitably, they would take up the criminal life and homicides in Baltimore would start rising again.

The only way to keep a young, black boy who comes from a fatherless home from slipping into the criminal lifestyle is to reach that boy early. And I’m talking really young here, around the age of seven or eight years old.

Once these young black men in their teens are in the criminal justice system, they are already committed to the path their lives will take: the one that will lead, almost inevitably, to them being either a victim of homicide, or the one that commits homicide.

Here in Baltimore, that homicide victim/perpetrator profile is only one part of the problem.

Just as important is the penchant of Baltimore juries to acquit defendants of murder charges even when evidence clearly shows the defendant was guilty.

When I was a columnist at The Baltimore Sun, no fewer than two circuit court judges contacted me about this problem. They said they had presided over cases where the evidence of guilt was overwhelming, and yet the jury chose to acquit rather than convict.

So a murderer— probably with a lengthy criminal record— was cut loose and turned back out on the streets, probably to commit more murders.

I wonder what the homicide victim/perpetrator profile for Baltimore in 2013 will look like? I’m betting that victims and perpetrators— in many cases— will have criminal records that could stretch from here to Philadelphia.

And yet another journalistic goof!

OK, it’s official: I’m a goof!


Gregory Kane

In my last column I railed, ranted and raved about how reporters, anchors, editors and general managers of local television stations aren’t from Baltimore, but really need to act like they’re from around here.

It was a matter of journalistic accuracy, I harrumphed, so that said reporters and anchors wouldn’t take to the airwaves and say things like “Poly High School” or “City High School.”

The specific target of my dudgeon was a local television reporter named Kai Reed. Specifically, I wrote this:

“Who would utter such nonsense (as Poly High School)? Well, WJZ-TV reporter Kai Reed for one.”

There was a problem with my assessment, and considerably more than a slight one: Kai Reed isn’t a reporter for WJZ. She’s a reporter for WBAL television.

The columnist regrets the error. The columnist also apologizes to Ms. Reed, WBAL and WJZ. But maybe now they have some appreciation for how I feel when I hear things like “Poly High School” and “City High School.”

Besides, my goof might have been caused because I frequently suffer the side effects of rigorous chemotherapy regimens. What’s their excuse?

Now, on to other matters: Gary Maynard has resigned as director of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections. And can you blame the man?

Recently the feds indicted 19 more people in connection with the smuggling contraband scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The total number of corrections officers indicted is 27.

According to a news story in The Baltimore Sun, witnesses cooperating with the feds indicated that as many as three-quarters of the 650 corrections officers that work at BCDC either are or, at one time, might have been involved in the corruption.

Now let’s do some quick math: 75 percent of 650, rounding off to the nearest whole number, is 488. So nearly 500 corrections officers at the BCDC are dirty, if the witnesses accurate.

How are the remaining 162— the honest ones, or, as I put it in a previous column, the smart ones that aren’t nasty— supposed to do their jobs? Fact is, they can’t. Not effectively, and not in that environment.

I have a hunch that Maynard decided to resign once he heard that 75 percent number. He probably figured, “I don’t need this nonsense.”

And he doesn’t. Who would? Corrections officers smuggling in cell phones, drugs and other contraband. Corrections officers sexing it up with inmates. Gang leaders running the darned jail.

Maynard did what he had to do to keep his sanity intact, which was to say good-bye, good luck and good riddance to Maryland’s department of correction.

If the BCDC had more prisoners like Nelson Mandela, Maynard might never have resigned.

I really can’t end this column without giving some props to Mandela, the former president of South Africa who died this past December 5.

Mandela has been my hero for years, and I’m talking long before almost everybody started jumping on the Nelson Mandela bandwagon back in the 1990s.

My passion for Mandela started around 1969, when I was fresh out of high school. (BALTIMORE CITY COLLEGE, I will once again remind the folks at local television stations.)

From the frequent reading of the newspaper Muhammad Speaks, I learned about Mandela and the African National Congress to which he belonged.

I learned how Mandela helped co-found Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, in the early 1960s. I learned that Mandela was a courageous, bona fide fighter for the liberation of African peoples.

I never did buy the notion that Mandela was a terrorist, as some in the West would eventually call him. Funny, isn’t it, how some of our former presidents who either placed or kept Mandela on our terrorist watch list attended his memorial service?

Did they think we would forget that?

A Baltimore primer for local TV stations

Poly High School? POLY HIGH SCHOOL? Who would utter such nonsense? Well, WJZ-TV reporter Kai Reed for one.

Reed was recently reporting a story about the tragic presumed drowning death of Air National Guardsman Evan Curbeam. The airman, Reed told WJZ viewers, was a graduate of “Poly High School.”

Only someone who is not from around here would commit such an egregious gaffe. That’s what bugs me about most of the on-air personalities at local TV stations: they are not from around here, and it shows in their reporting.

WJZ in particular has one on-air personality who insists on pronouncing Wabash Avenue as “wah-BOSH”

Avenue. I cringe every time I hear that.

And folks from around here— either born here or having lived here for years— know that the school called Poly is a high school. And we know what the official name of the school is too.

So, for the benefit of Ms. Reed— and her colleagues at WJZ, who I’m sure don’t know any more than she does— the official name of the school is Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

That’s precisely how journalists— in broadcast and print news outlets— should refer to the school. That is, if they want to be accurate. And being accurate is what journalism is all about.

The school opened its doors in 1883. For years, it was a boys-only institution. Girls were admitted in the 1970s. Every year in November, Poly renews the second-oldest high school football rivalry in the nation when it plays against City.

The official name of Poly’s archrival is Baltimore City College. Folks from around here refer to it as City. No, we do NOT call it “City High School.” We’re from around here, you see; we all KNOW it’s a high school. Like Poly, City was also an all-boys school for decades. It went coed in the late 1970s.

As the saying goes, you can look all this stuff up. It’s right on the Internet. I’m sure there are computers at WJZ. I urge reporters to start using them. It wouldn’t hurt editors and general managers to use them either.

When television reporters go on the air and say silly things like “Poly High School,” I don’t really blame them. For me, the buck stops at the top, and that’s where the editors and general manager are.

A Kai Reed might not know Poly’s official name is Baltimore Polytechnic

Institute, but the editors and general managers at WJZ should, and they should make it clear to their reporters to use the proper name of the school in their reporting.

Of course, the editors and general managers probably aren’t from around here either. They’re probably just using Baltimore as a pit stop on their way to a job at a bigger station in New York, or at a network.

So they really don’t give a fig when their reporters call Baltimore Polytechnic Institute “Poly High School,” or Baltimore City College “City High School.”

Those editors and general managers don’t give the proverbial tinker’s dam about how their on-air personalities consistently refer to places clearly in West Baltimore as being in southwest Baltimore.

So, for the benefit of general managers, news editors and reporters at WJZ, WMAR, WBAL and WBFF, I offer the following Baltimore primer.

Charles Street divides the eastern half of Baltimore from the western half.

Am I going too fast for you guys?

Because, I can slow down a little— Baltimore Street divides the northern half of Baltimore from the southern half.

Now read this really carefully. I would like to think it’s not that complicated, but judging from what your on-air personalities have said in the past, it might be a tad hard for you all to grasp.


When there’s a news story about an incident happening on a particular street, there’s a simple way to determine if that location is in West Baltimore, East Baltimore, southwest, southeast, etc.

TV reporters and editors need to do what we print journalists do. We use something called the “Crisscross Index.” It tells us which streets are north, south, east or west. And it has things called MAPS in it too, which should make it easier.

So to the general managers and news editors at local television stations I say this: please, even if your reporters can’t act like they’re from around here, at least pretend that you are.

When stupid meets nasty

Balti-morons: that’s what folks not from around these parts call us.

On occasion, I have bought into that disparaging characterization of folks in my hometown. In one of my many rants about how stupid some Baltimore-area drivers are, I have even used the term Balti-morons.


Gregory Kane

That conviction was reinforced a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving along Gwynn Oak Avenue and crossing Windsor Mill Road. I narrowly avoided colliding with a woman driving a gas-guzzling SUV who was trying to make a right turn on red without yielding to oncoming traffic.

She gave me the mean mug and some harsh words, of course, because, in her mind, this Balti-moron was absolutely right. Pity the moron that doesn’t know he or she is a moron.

I’ve tried to give us the benefit of the doubt: those of us that drive stupidly are probably quite intelligent at other things.

But what if I’m wrong? What if the driving is a symptom of even more widespread stupidity? What if we’re stupid at a plethora of other things?

That’s when I read the headline of a story in the November 22 edition of The Baltimore Sun: “New charges widen jail corruption case.”

Nineteen more people have been indicted for corruption in that mess involving the Black Guerilla Family prison gang running the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC). Fourteen of those indicted were corrections officers.

Back in April, 25 people were indicted, 13 of them corrections officers. That brings the total number of corrections officers indicted to 27.

So at least 27 corrections officers saw an upside to smuggling cell phones, drugs and other contraband into the BCDC for the BGF. Indictments indicate some of these folks even talked about their criminal acts in phone conversations that were recorded.

Are we dealing with a level of stupidity here that is depressingly, dangerously high? What would possess these corrections officers to think that phone conversations are in any way private?

That would make them think no one was listening? What would make them think no one was watching? What would make them think they could get away with it?

In one word: stupidity. We’re talking about a really daffy, clueless bunch here.

We are talking about people like former corrections officer Jennifer Owens, one of those indicted in April. She has since pleaded guilty. Here is what she said about the situation at the BCDC in a phone call that was recorded:

“They don’t even really be firing anybody. Like they give people the option to resign. For real.”

Oh, Jennifer, you mean like FOR REAL, FOR REAL?

I would like to think that intelligent corrections officers are easy to find, but I have to take into account the population from which the pool of potential corrections officers come.

I’m forced to conclude the pool isn’t that bright. And some in the pool, in addition to being stupid, are also downright nasty.

Read this excerpt from The Baltimore Sun story about the most recent indictments:

“The new court filings describe cell phones smuggled inside sandwiches and marijuana inserted into body orifices.”

Anyone cramming foreign objects into a body orifice is nasty. Anyone using any drug that was brought into the BCDC through a body orifice is equally nasty.

And what about the female corrections officer that went to see an inmate at the Roxbury Correctional Institute in Hagerstown? According to the news report, “she was captured on surveillance video being fondled under her pants.”

Nasty, lady. Nasty. I don’t know whether to nominate you for Queen of the Skanks, Skank of the Year or Skank of the Decade, but you might end up getting nominated for all three.

The BCDC mess shows why stupid and nasty make for a bad combination. This might have been avoided if there were corrections officers that recognized their limitations, who wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Hey, I might be stupid, but I’m not nasty.”

Or, “Hey, I might be nasty, but I’m not stupid.”

But when stupid meets nasty, we get what we have down at the BCDC.

A New Low

Even for that left-wing gaggle more commonly known as The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board, the October 23, 2013 editorial “Putting down panhandlers” is a new low.

For a while the editorial board at The BS— now, more than ever, appropriately abbreviated, believe me— has been drifting ever leftward. If honchos at the Tribune Company, which owns the paper, really want to save money, they should try this:

Fire the entire editorial board. Get press releases from the Democratic National Committee and run them as editorials. Believe me, readers won’t know the difference.

“Putting down panhandlers” was written with all the self-righteous dudgeon we have come to expect of American leftists. The Comintern committee that now comprises The BS editorial board will have no truck with a proposed law that would prevent panhandling within 10 feet of restaurants, shops or parking meters.

“This could actually become law,” the editorial groused, “and then the city may find itself in federal court explaining to a judge why a law written so broadly isn’t a violation of the First Amendment and the panhandlers’ right to free speech.”

It’s as if The BS Comintern club hasn’t a clue that the right to free speech isn’t absolute. There are exceptions, as handed down in court cases.

There is the “fighting words” exception. There is the “clear and present danger” exception, and if Baltimore’s proposed law becomes law and winds up being challenged in court, there might be a “boorish conduct” exception.

That’s what panhandling is: boorish, annoying conduct. It’s not a stretch to conclude that the Founding Fathers, when they wrote the Constitution, considered boorish, annoying conduct worthy of constitutional protection.

The BS editorial board knows little about constitutional law, and is even more clueless about how to deal with social ills.

“Baltimore has a high unemployment rate,” they wrote, “and no shortage of people who suffer from addiction and mental illnesses, and those chronic problems should be recognized as the real issue.”

But how does giving panhandlers carte blanche to beg from anyone they want, at any time they want and anywhere they want, help those who are addicted and suffering from mental illness?

If you are an addict you need to be in a recovery program; if you are mentally ill, you need treatment. Allowing the addicted and the mentally ill to beg on the streets, cures neither their addiction nor their mental illness. In fact, panhandling might exacerbate those problems.

But The BS editorial board really took a despicable turn with this passage:

“Panhandling is a symptom of a much broader social problem. In a city where one of out five adults and one out of three children live below the poverty line, the more apt question might be, why aren’t more people out there begging?”

Oh yes, they went there. Poor people, members of The BS editorial board

believe, are SUPPOSED to be on the streets begging and they are baffled about why more poor folks are not out there doing it.

That would be for two reasons. One is called PRIDE. The other is called DIGNITY. The majority of poor folks don’t panhandle because they have plenty of both.

Editorial board members of The BS don’t think poor folks have either pride or dignity. That is a typical American leftist view of the poor: arrogant, elitist and downright infuriating.

My mother was born black and poor in the year, 1922, when it was dangerous to be both. She raised her six children while living in poverty, working for low wages in several dry cleaning establishments.

She NEVER panhandled. (She was never on public assistance either; she told those folks just where to stick their “assistance.”) And she instilled in her six children a sense of pride and dignity that discouraged us from panhandling.

She died August 17. Two months and six days later, a bunch of leftists at a certain Baltimore newspaper insulted her egregiously by suggesting she should have begged her way out of poverty.

Flair Dancers will ‘Dance the World’

You can bet relatives and friends of Diamond Tomlin and Morgan Cruise have circled the dates: June 29 to July 2, 2014.

That’s when both girls will travel to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to perform in an annual extravaganza called “Dance The World.”

Tomlin is a nine-year-old fourth grader at Hilton Elementary School; Cruise is a 10-year-old who is being home schooled. Both girls learned their dancing at the Flair Dance and Modeling Agency in Catonsville.

Regular readers of this column are no doubt already familiar with Flair. Willia Bland started the studio in April of 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bland felt that King’s death created so much sadness in black America that she felt inspired to create something positive. A model herself, she decided to open a modeling school for black women and girls.

The dancing component was added later. For the past 45 years, Flair has been teaching modeling, dance, etiquette, poise and elegance to at least two generations of girls of all races and ethnicities. It’s a track record not equaled in these parts.

Diamond has been dancing at Flair for five years. She also attends the arts camp Flair runs for girls every summer. Of all the dances she has learned at Flair, Diamond prefers tap and modern dance. Her dance rehearsal schedule keeps her pretty busy. Two days a week, she attends practice sessions at Flair.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Diamond attends rehearsals in Annapolis, where she is scheduled— for the second consecutive year— to appear in a holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

“Last year I played a princess and a Chinese stick,” Diamond said. “This year I’m playing a mouse, a fairy and a cookie.”

Diamond was selected for the cast after auditioning with hundreds of other dancers.

“She’s an amazing dancer,” Janna Thompson said of Diamond. “She has a lot of energy.” Thompson should know. She is not only Diamond’s dance teacher, but she also teaches ballet, hip-hop and adult aerobics to intermediate classes at Flair.

Thompson says she values “stage presence” over technique when evaluating dancers, adding “Diamond is always on stage. She has performing in her heart.”

Not that Diamond is one to skimp when it comes to technique.

“She’s one of those students who, if I give her something to do and she doesn’t get it right away, she’ll go home and practice it,” Thompson said of Diamond.

Morgan has been dancing at Flair for two years. Two days a week, when she takes a break from her golf game, Morgan practices dancing at Flair.

I’m not kidding about the golfing. Morgan said she has played golf the last four years, along with her brother and a cousin. Her mom got her started in it. And, Morgan said, she’s quite good at the game.

I will never get into a golf game with Morgan Cruise. I tried playing golf only once, and set the game back at least 500 years.

But back to Morgan’s dancing: while at Flair, Morgan has had the opportunity to dance in Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and in the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation’s capital.

Morgan said her favorite dance is tap, which might be why she picks up the art form so quickly.

“She picks up steps very well,” said Mari Andrea Travis, Bland’s granddaughter who also teaches dance at Flair. “She picks up steps I wasn’t able to do till I was 14.”

Morgan might not realize the compliment that Travis paid her. Mari Andrea Travis is a SUPERB tap dancer; if you’ve never seen her tap dance, then you’ve been missing out on quite the treat.

Chances are few of us will get to see Diamond and Morgan perform at “Dance The World,” but maybe some enterprising soul will record their performances for us.

A new motto for Baltimore

Let’s make Smokey the official face of Baltimore, kind of our mascot.

You have never heard of Smokey? He is 57-year-old Simon “Smokey” Carey, a man bereft of either pride or dignity, and one unfettered by a sense of shame.

Smokey is a panhandler, and apparently he is quite proud of it. When The Baltimore Sun did a story in its Wednesday, October 23, 2013 edition about panhandling, it wasn’t enough for Smokey to consent to be interviewed. No, Smokey was so shameless that he allowed himself to be photographed as well.

“Look, world! I’m a panhandling poot butt!” Smokey seemed to be saying.

A guy like Smokey is the perfect symbol for Baltimore, famous for helping to send its former mayor, Martin O’Shameless himself, to the governor’s mansion. Smokey is the ideal mascot for a city that has no shame.

Forget those old slogans: The City That Reads; Charm City; and Believe. Let us come up with a slogan that tells what we are really about. I have a few suggestions.

Baltimore: The City With No Shame.

Baltimore: The City Where Shame Came To Die.

Baltimore: The City Where Shame Was Dragged Kicking And Screaming Into The Street, Tied To A Lamppost And Shot Between The Eyes.

Got Shame? We Got No Use For You In Baltimore.

It was O’Shameless himself that started us down this road, back when he was mayor.

Remember when the school system ran up a $58 million deficit, back when O’Shameless was mayor? I’m sure he doesn’t, since he has yet to give an accounting to taxpayers about what happened to their money.

The deficit was run up under former school superintendent Carmen Russo. O’Shameless said he’d tried to get information from Russo about the schools, but that she wasn’t cooperative.

That’s an admission of failure, but when O’Shameless ran for governor in 2006, he brazenly bragged about how great Baltimore schools were. That $58 million deficit never came up.

And remember what happened when then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich offered to help bail Baltimore out of its school system crisis, on the condition that there be more state oversight?

Why, O’Shameless and his equally shameless fellow Democrats in Baltimore made Ehrlich the villain, claiming the mean old Republican was picking on our town and our schools.

Now Smoky probably figures that if our governor can have no shame, then why should he? And it’d be hard to argue with him.

In no way do I want it misconstrued that I condone panhandling. Panhandlers are annoying, often deliberately so.

How much of your dignity and pride have to vanish for you to even consider going up to a complete stranger and asking for money? Just how much of your sense of shame has vanished?

Panhandlers don’t trouble themselves with things like pride, dignity and a sense of shame. They just get in the way of the begging.

And no, don’t hand me this nonsense about how panhandlers beg for money because they’re homeless, hungry or both.

In The Baltimore Sun story Smokey revealed that he stays with his sister in the Park Heights area. So we know he is not homeless.

And if Smokey’s sister is sheltering him, then she’s probably feeding him too.

So if Smokey is neither homeless nor hungry, then why is he out in the streets panhandling? Just what is he using the money he gets panhandling for?

I’m betting you won’t even need two guesses to nail that answer, let alone three.

Methinks booze, drugs or both might be the reason many, if not most, panhandlers panhandle. The combination of booze and drugs might also be the reason they have little to no sense of shame.

So here’s to Smokey, Baltimore’s new mascot. And here’s to Baltimore, city of drunks, druggies and shameless politicians.