It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Happy New Year, y’all!
How about we get this first Angels & Assholes of 2021 started, shall we?
Angel Anno Domini 2021
Historians who keep track of these things will tell you that the “worst time in history to be alive” may well have been 536 – a leap year which began on a Tuesday of the Julian calendar – when volcanic activity in Iceland caused a foul ash-fog to envelop much of the world in effective darkness.
For 18 months. . .
The absence of sunlight caused a change in global climate patterns resulting in years of famine and blight.
Others would argue that 1918, the year of the Spanish Flu epidemic, was no fun either – or that the time of the Great Depression might be considered some of our worst years on record.
Those of my generation would point to 1968, which was marked by the tragic assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the infamous Democratic National Convention, fiery riots consumed the streets of major American cities, and the Vietnam War raged abroad.
The Plague, The Dark Ages, the inquisitions of the 1250’s, the list goes on.
But 2020 ranks right up there.
This summer, in a column in the Chicago Tribune, journalist Mary Schmich aptly described the shared pain of our most recent worst year:
“This worst year ever has been far worse for some than others, but it’s touched us all. Our loss, grief and anger is collective. It’s deepened by the constant media invasion telling us what an awful year it is.”
In my view, what passes for our “news” media has not done us any favors this year – indulging in fearmongering and fanning the flames of divisiveness, while feeding greedily on our national propensity to gorge on a 24-hour infotainment cycle that greases its wheels with increasingly sensationalistic content.
Add to a worldwide pandemic the insanity of a never-ending election year – which was billed by some pundits as a battle for the “very soul of our nation” – the still inexplicable phenomena of toilet paper hoarding, the lack of transparency by our local public health apparatus, government imposed “lockdowns,” curfews, mandates, quarantine, emergency declarations, civil unrest, defunding the police, the painful death of small businesses, the mob eradication of our nation’s history, chaos at the local, state, and federal level, no travel, no touching, Kobe, Trump, Biden, social media censorship, the Russians, the Chinese, COVID-19. . .
“Due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. . .”
“. . .we will be closed until further notice.”
“. . .(insert major life event) has been postponed.”
“. . .all service personnel will be furloughed.”
During these “worst of times,” our collective spirit may have wavered – but it never broke – and we saw the absolute best of our national resolve in so many wonderful ways.
We rediscovered the many shared values that bind our community.
We became aware of the importance of our constitutionally protected freedoms.
We were reminded of our vitally important physical connection to family and friends.
We marveled at the extraordinary bravery of our first responders and medical professionals who stood firm on the front line of a true crisis.
Not all, but most of us embraced the concept of “selflessness” – what it means to consider the needs of others – while accepting the moral imperative of taking personal steps to protect those most vulnerable.
Are we still living in the most divisive era in modern history? Yes.
That is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
However, in the winter of our discontent, I believe better days are ahead – at the very dawn of 2021 our faith is restored with the anticipation of new possibilities.
New year. New beginnings.
God, I hope so. . .
Angel Coach Jack ‘Cy’ McClairen
The legendary Bethune-Cookman University athlete, coach, and beloved mentor to so many, Jack Forsyth “Cy” McClairen, passed away this week. He was 89.
According to Bethune-Cookman University’s incomparable senior writer and historian Dan Ryan, who so lovingly summarized the great man’s career:
“After graduation in 1953, “Cy” was drafted twice, first by the Pittsburgh Steelers and then by the United States Army for a two-year tour of duty, where his football skills were utilized during his stint at Fort Sill (Oklahoma) for one of the nation’s top service teams. McClairen then began a successful six-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who in 1955 kept him and cut a quarterback named Johnny Unitas.
In 1957, he finished third in the league in receptions – finishing ahead of Frank Gifford – and was named to the NFL All-Pro team. His 1958 Pro Bowl roommate was NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
He returned to Bethune-Cookman in 1961, holding down duties as head football/basketball coach and athletic director at the same time. Still, McClairen found a way to record non-losing records in his first combined 27 seasons as head coach of both sports.”
In addition, “McClairen coached many who would go on to the professional ranks, notably NFL Hall of Famer Larry Little, a member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Bethune-Cookman had two players on that perfect Dolphin team – Little and Maulty Moore, and were quarterbacked most of the season by Earl Morrall, McClairen’s quarterback at Pittsburgh.
McClairen also coached the late Charles “Boobie” Clark, the 1973 AFC Rookie of The Year, and (Alvin) Wyatt, who would go on to become the winningest football coach in Bethune-Cookman history.
As a basketball coach, McClairen led the Wildcats to SIAC championships and NCAA Division II appearances in 1965, 1968 and 1980, with that 1980 team struggling through a 10-14 regular season only to put together an incredible tournament run. He would lead that program through the transfer to Division I, stepping down in 1993. Of particular note is the fact that he personally sacrificed his career coaching record in basketball by negotiating major guarantee games to generate revenue during the transitional era.
He finished his active coaching career with records of 71-60-3 in football and 396-436 in basketball.”
In a fitting tribute to Coach Cy, B-CU’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn Thompson said:
“The world has lost a Hall of Famer. I am merely one of the thousands of people whose lives have been significantly impacted directly by this man as a coach, father figure, leader and friend. The Wildcat Nation and beyond pauses in prayer to simply say ‘Thank You God for Jack ‘Cy’ McClairen’.”
May he rest in peace. . .
Asshole Florida Department of Health in Volusia County
Do you ever get the feeling that residents of Volusia County are the red headed stepchildren of Central Florida? Always sucking hind teat when it comes to the efficiencies and conveniences of life that others enjoy?
Yeah. Me too.
For instance, now that Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry jumped the line and received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are hearing from a hodgepodge of social media sites, Tweets, and conflicting blurbs that early next week, Volusia County residents 65+ will have the option of traveling all the way out to Daytona Stadium on LPGA Boulevard and entering “The Thunderdome” – a dystopian first come, first served drive-thru free-for-all where you may, or may not, receive an inoculation.
I have heard conflicting reports, but the latest word is that just 1,000 doses will be available – so, get there early, stake your claim, say your prayers – and plan for disappointment.
Oh, as a courtesy, those lucky enough to get their share of the “limited supply” will be handed a “reminder card,” so no senior citizen forgets they can compete again for the required second dose 21-days later.
Not an appointment, reserved spot, or emailed notification. A reminder card. . . like a rubber band around the wrist so you don’t forget the stove is on.
In other civilized counties throughout the region, elderly residents simply sign into an electronic portal where they are provided an appointment – the date, time, and location of their vaccination – along with a follow-up date for the second shot.
An organized and efficient process for distributing a vaccine during the height of a global pandemic.
According to both “official” and unofficial sources, Volusia County’s event will be held Monday and Tuesday, January 4-5, 2021, from 9:00am to 4:00pm, at Daytona Stadium, 3917 LPGA Boulevard.
Officials have stated that elderly residents camping in the cold on the shoulder of LPGA Boulevard to ensure a coveted spot in line is not recommended – both for optics – and due to safety concerns. . .
The inoculations are being provided by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County in partnership with the City of Daytona Beach.
No appointments. No reservations. All the organization of a cattle stampede.
Look, I’m not going to worry about it.
As a 60-year-old cigarette smoker who is of absolutely no value to anyone, I’m just south of potted plants on the CDC vaccine eligibility list – but I will patiently wait my turn.
Because it is the right, moral, and ethical thing to do.
If there is a bright side, maybe our public health gurus will have the kinks in the distribution pipe worked out by the time my number is called from on high, eh?
As our newspaper continues to post the grim number of dead and infected, I hope the likes of Mayor Derrick Henry and other craven politicians – whose selfish actions in receiving the vaccine before their elderly and compromised constituents – the equivalent of throwing women and children out of a lifeboat based solely on his political status – can live with themselves.
Good luck, Halifax area seniors – you’re gonna need it.
Quote of the Week
“Incoming Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower has a plan for Volusia’s future, and it frighteningly calls for a return to the past. (“New county chair calls beach driving priority,” Dec. 15) Loud, jacked up pickup trucks gunning up and down the beach unrestricted. Rundown hotels grasping for a clientele that largely no longer exists.
Hoards (sic) of glassy-eyed teenagers wandering the Boardwalk on warm summer nights. And continued economic dependence on occasional events at the speedway.
The only thing missing from Brower’s nostalgic longing for a return to ’70s Daytona Beach is a disco soundtrack.”
–David Weber, DeLand, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Backward on the Beach,” Sunday, December 27, 2020
I can tell the author of the above editorial has a skewed memory of local history – or hasn’t witnessed what has happened to our core tourist area since those halcyon days of beachside prosperity of the 1970’s.
I hate to break it to you – but a few residents of Volusia County have been sold a bill of goods by some of our “Rich & Powerful” who are of the opinion that giving away our heritage of beach driving as a cheap spiff for speculative developers is good “economic” policy.
Others who claim to be “environmentalists” are easily distracted by beach driving arguments – all while turning their attention away from the unchecked sprawl that is threatening our sole source of potable water – and forever destroying our greenspace and wildlife habitats with slash-and-burn land rape – all to make room for more ghastly “theme” communities.
They fritter about the negligible impacts of an attraction that has made our area unique for over a century – while a wholesale ecological atrocity is unfolding along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line – and officials study how to supplement our drinking water with treated sewage.
In recent days, some have bashed Mr. Brower’s renewed focus on beach driving and access – including a few doomsayers who claim climate change will soon eliminate our ability to drive on the beach – all without addressing the importance of the practice to our struggling economy – or limiting development east of A-1-A to ensure future parking and access.
Fortunately, Mr. Brower and his fellow councilmember’s have some very smart people willing to help shape the future of Volusia County beaches – constructive input that has been sorely lacking in recent years.
According to a recent post by the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, president of Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, Sons of the Beach:
“It is time to reinstate the Beach Advisory Board. Volusia County has mismanaged the beach for years. The county dismantled the board after the county didn’t like what the board was recommending. Well, clearly Volusia County needs actual beach users to help them in making decisions.
The limiting of access and wasteful spending is ridiculous.
For just an example, on days like the last few days when temps barely reach 50 degrees or days when the beach is closed due to high surf…what exactly is the beach patrol doing? Let the sheriff or local law enforcement patrol the beach and use lifeguard in red towers as needed. Reinstate the Beach Advisory Board made up of citizens who are beach goers to help the bureaucrats in Deland make reasonable decisions.”
In addition, this week, civic activist Ken Strickland reacted to an editorial by a Port Orange resident who claims beach driving is “…dying a slow natural death from global warming.”
“To those who wish to use global warming and rising tides to end beach driving really should think that through. If tides are rising at such an accelerated rate to end beach driving, then tides will continue to rise to the point of ending development east of A1A.
Therefore, each time beach driving is removed from a section of the beach development should be removed and prohibited for the same area. I know this sounds crazy to the pro development community however no crazier than ending beach driving does to beach driving advocates. Residents are tired of greed and indifference destroying their quality of life.”
In my view, these are excellent suggestions for changing the culture and future of beach management – and returning a sense of fun to our most precious natural resource – while preserving our century old traditions for generations to come.
And Another Thing!
It is now illegal for Florida public officials and employees to use their offices to benefit themselves, their families, or employers.
No kidding. It’s the law.
I have said it for years – we are living in the biggest whorehouse in the world.
Florida has long been known as the most corrupt state in the union – a place where government officials openly refuse to separate their personal finances from the public agencies they oversee – and, for years, both political parties have appointed treacherous greed hogs and rip-off artists to influential boards and committees, insiders who seize the high ground while lining the pockets of their friends and furthering their own business interests.
The new law, which took effect yesterday, includes penalties for public officials and employees who abuse their positions for “disproportionate benefit.”
According to reports, during the 2020 legislative session lawmakers passed a bill which helps carry out a voter-approved 2018 constitutional amendment designed to slow the “revolving door” between public officials and the private sector.
In part, the constitutional amendment says a “public officer or public employee shall not abuse his or her public position in order to obtain a disproportionate benefit for himself or herself; his or her spouse, children, or employer; or for any business with which he or she contracts; in which he or she is an officer, a partner, a director, or a proprietor; or in which he or she owns an interest.”
It only took the Sunshine State 175-years to get it on paper. . .
Better late than never, I suppose.
Two additional elements of the amendment require two more years of legislative wrangling and will not take effect until Dec. 31, 2022.
These provisions will extend from two years to six years the time in which a lawmaker must wait after leaving office before lobbying legislators and other statewide elected officials.
The prohibition also extends to former state department heads and judges.
The other commonsense changes prohibit sitting public officials from lobbying government agencies for compensation, you know, skimming the fat while personally directing public policy, the expenditure of tax dollars, and lucrative state contracts. . .
The 2018 constitutional amendment garnered the support of some 80% of Florida voters.
Thank God for small miracles. . .
That’s all for me!
Here’s wishing all members of the Barker’s View Tribe a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2021!