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Felicity Huffman Gets 14 Days. Justice or Entitlement?

190913140254-02-felicity-huffman-court-arrival-0913-large-169Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison and ordered to pay a $30,000 fine.

Here is the thing. Part of the divide in this country is the belief by the average American that the accountability for entitled behavior by the privileged rich doesn’t at all correspond to the accountability they have to contend with when they break the law. That money renders people immune to punishment.

This reaction signifies the growing anger between the haves and the have-nots.

Does Huffman truly understand and accept responsibility for what she did? If so, she should have mentioned those students who deserved the place her daughter was awarded through her bribery. Huffman’s actions took away the path to a better life from someone who deserved it and worked hard to earn it. In my opinion, her letter (shown below), is an extension of the idea that her lame reason for doing what she did is “understandable.”

On the other hand, if I seek to understand rather than be understood, to give her a year in prison for what is not really a danger to anyone would be a message to the rich, rather than just a sentence.

Let’s try to remember that her career is over. And wherever she goes for the rest of her life, because of her celebrity, everyone will be reminded of her lack of moral fiber and her belief that the ends justify the means, which they don’t.

So, as with many things, it’s more complicated than a simple “She got away with murder” or “The government has wasted way too many resources on this.”

Here is Huffman’s letter to the judge in full:

Dear Judge Talwani,

Thank you for the opportunity of writing this letter to you. Although I know I will have the chance to address you at my sentencing, I would like to offer you a broader perspective and insight into who I am as a person and a parent.

But first let me say, I am concerned that in giving you context it will seem like I am offering you a justification. Please, let me be very clear; I know there is no justification for what I have done. Yes, there is a bigger picture, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because I could have said “No” to cheating on the SAT scores. I unequivocally take complete responsibility for my actions and will respectfully accept whatever punishment the court deems appropriate.

‘I keep asking myself, why did I do this?Why did I say yes to a scheme of breaking the law and compromising my integrity? What interior forces drove me to do it?’

I keep asking myself, why did I do this? Why did I say yes to a scheme of breaking the law and compromising my integrity? What interior forces drove me to do it? How could I abandon my own moral compass and common sense? Those questions require a somewhat longer answer which involve both factual and personal responses. I will attempt to give you an insight into both.

The factual story is that I didn’t go shopping for a college counselor to find out how to rig a SAT score. I didn’t even know such a scheme existed. I hired a counselor for guidance and expertise on how to apply to colleges as successfully as possible for my daughter, Sophia.

I have been seeking advice, asking doctors, and trusting experts to help me with Sophia since she was 4 years old when it became clear to me that she struggled with everyday activities. At this age, she couldn’t even walk across a lawn in bare feet without flipping out. Tags in her shirt would cause a 20-minute meltdown. She didn’t know how to physically play with other kids, and most often she couldn’t sleep. Her nursery school recommended Occupational Therapy. As Sophia began to work with the therapists, I came to understand that she had Sensory Modulation Issues. At the time, I had no idea what that was, but basically, she would under or over respond to the outside world and couldn’t regulate herself. When she was eight years old, her school recommended she get tested by a neuropsychologist. She was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and she has been retested every three years as was recommended. I am grateful to this day for all the advice, help and expertise that we were fortunate to get, but these things did become a big part of my parenting and, regrettably, I came to rely on them too much. They came to outweigh my maternal instincts and eventually, in point of fact, my moral compass.

‘My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning.’

In High School my daughter went to a public school for the performing arts. At this school, which remains very underfunded, there is one college counselor for 300 students. many mothers, whose children had graduated, warned me not to leave the college process in the hands of the administration as they were overworked and understaffed. They advised me that a private college counselor was a vital necessity and we were fortunate to be able to afford one. Mr. Singer was recommended as one of the best experts in LA, and I was told I would be lucky if I could get him to sign on to help me with Sophia. I came to think this was particularly important given Sophia’s learning challenges.

I worked with Mr. Singer legitimately for a year. I also engaged him for my second daughter, Georgia, who also has serious learning disabilities, so she could benefit from his expertise. I was relieved that he seemed so good at his job, was so confident and knowledgeable. Sophia was passionate about majoring in theater, but over time, Mr. Singer told me that her test scores were too low and, if her math SAT scores didn’t rise dramatically, none of the colleges she was interested in would even consider her auditions.

I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. This sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn’t depend on her math skills. I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can’t do math.

‘I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor.’

After nearly a year of working with Mr. Singer and his tutors, he told me it wasn’t enough. Sophia’s math scores were not measuring up. We still had a serious problem and, according to him, he had the solution. He told me, “We will make sure she gets the scores she needs,” by having a proctor bump up her scores after she takes the test. Sophia would never know and then she could, “Concentrate on what really matters: her grades and her auditions.” He said he did it for many of his students.

I was shocked that such a thing existed and after he made the initial suggestion, it remained on the table. I couldn’t make up my mind for six weeks. I kept going back and forth while avoiding a final decision. I felt an urgency which built to a sense of panic that there was this huge obstacle in the way that needed to be fixed for my daughter’s sake. As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.

To my utter shame, I finally agreed to cheating on Sophia’s SAT scores, and also considered doing the same thing for Georgia. But the decision haunted me terribly; I knew it was not right. I finally came to my senses and told Mr. Singer to stop the process for Georgia.

Here is the personal side of my story. I find Motherhood bewildering. From the moment, my children were born I worried that they got me as a Mother. I so desperately wanted to do it right and was so deathly afraid of doing it wrong. My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning. I was always searching for the right book or the right piece of advice that would help me help my daughters or keep me from making the mistakes that might damage their lives.

‘In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.’

In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family. When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, “I am sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.” In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.

I don’t write this letter to you in any way to justify my wrongdoing, my guilt or to avoid conscious acceptance of the consequences. I am writing you to shed light on how I finally got to the day when I said “Yes” to this scheme.

I have a deep and abiding shame over what I have done. Shame and regret that I will carry for the rest of my life. It is right that I should carry this burden and use it as fuel for change in my own life and hopefully it will be a cautionary tale for my daughters and the community.

As painful as this has been, I am truly grateful for the lessons I have learned and for the opportunity to change and live more honestly. I am now focusing on repairing my relationship with my daughter, my family and making amends to my community.

Thank you for reading my letter. I appreciate the opportunity to explain, but not excuse what happened.


Felicity Huffman

Government News Politics Uncategorized

Santana or The Donald?

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 9.02.20 AMSantana or the Donald? We the people decide which we will have, not by our vote, but through our Facebook posts.

I have an old friend I haven’t seen in twenty years whom I follow on Facebook. Upper West Side of Manhattan guy who is passionate about right and wrong and politics, and those who have “friended” him on Facebook generally agree with his point of view—or if they do not, they do not challenge it when he writes his long, heartfelt, editorials on his wall. These missives generally get a lot of rah-rahs and likes, but overall serve no purpose other than to make him feel better, and those around him get to enjoy that feeling you get when you read something that outrages you and someone else makes comments that make you feel like “he gets it.” It makes the individual feel better, but generally that’s the net gain.

Now, let’s go back in time a bit to the Flintstone age when it was just TV, radio, and print. If you sent in an editorial, or commented on the screen when a microphone was put in front of you, all that happened was people heard you and agreed or didn’t. But that was it.

Those days are over friends. The Facebook editorial beast has changed things, and your role in the conversation about The Donald is not what you think it is. If I told Robby, the friend I mentioned earlier, that he was helping The Donald by posting about him, he’d stick his head in the oven. But that’s what he’s doing.

Here is what happens when Robby types his eight-paragraph editorial on The Donald, which referenced TD (The Donald) by name seven or eight times. It was liked by 24 people and commented on by another 15 or so. The algorithms of Facebook come in and say, “Wow. These fine people want to see more on TD. They are interested in what he has to say.” And, then FB puts articles about TD on the walls of Robby’s friends, and they click on the link to Salon’s latest piece about how TD is whipping the uneducated into a frenzy, and then Robby’s friends like that article and comment on it and share it, and then Salon says, “We must keep writing about TD because he is giving us reach,” and voilá, TD moves forward yet another few inches.

Here is what didn’t happen with Robby’s eight paragraph editorial. Not one mind was changed. Those who are his friends feel the same way he does, and those who do not know him never see it … and even if they did, data shows us that their minds are already made up, and their opinions are reinforced by the reflections of their own viewpoints that Facebook’s fine algorithms have put on their walls.

My friends don’t seem to realize that every time they click on those TD articles, they are helping him by extending his reach. His ability to get the media to cover him four times as much as they cover any other GOP candidate is based on the input the media gets on the popularity of what they are covering, and since social media has changed the game of news to make it a popularity contest for ratings, rather than a discourse on what is happening in the world, we are all doomed unless we change our message to the media.

“I can fix this,” the megalomaniac part of me says to my other self. “Just explain to my friends what is happening here.” So I go onto his latest post, and I write,

The thing about all this is that he is controlling the conversation. When we react to his statements, it just keeps the focus on the issues he is selling rather than the issues that matter to us. I’m in marketing. You want to answer him? Take the power away from him rather than continue the dialog. If people stop writing about him, commenting on his commentary, he is gone. And, then listen and dance to this music from a Mexican immigrant. (at this point in my reply to Robby’s post, I added a link to Santana—one of the greatest imports into the US from Mexico as far as I’m concerned—and his fabulous “Smooth”).

Well, the response to my post was less than smooth. I didn’t get it, according to him. We must speak up – answer him. So much for my ability to change the conversation. And it’s true, we can’t ignore him, but since the news is now dictated by ‘we the people’ rather than the news itself, we are obligated to take responsibility when it becomes a free for all of embarrassing, less than relevant, hate-based, dribble.

Here it is in a nutshell people. If you are afraid of TD, this is what you need to do to stop him:

1. Never click on a link that mentions him again. Anywhere.
2. Start talking about the candidate you are interested in. Click on links about them—often. Share those links.
3. Send a contribution to your candidate.
4. Go hear the speeches of less entertaining but more presidential candidates.
5. Tell your friends to read this article. Forward it to a friend. (Oh, all right, that was a bit self-serving, perhaps.)

The conversation is deteriorating because of we the people. We now dictate what the media presents. Raise your level of interest, and they will too. By the way, talk about a fun alternative to watching TD talk about immigration. Watch this immigration rant from Harry Belefonte.

So, be gone TD. I am done with you. I will never click on another link with you in the headline again. You too, Kardashian. FB is going to think I have the most intelligent interests in all the land.

Movies & TV News

Losing Letterman

imagesWe’re losing Letterman. Oh my. Let me begin by saying that the pundits need to stop referring to Letterman’s show in the past tense. He hasn’t gone yet. He’s here for another year, or perhaps even a bit longer. Get a grip. Sheesh.

Moving on to my point (it’s sometimes so hard to get there). In the interest of full disclosure I should say I now TIVO both Letterman and Jimmy Fallon. I keep saying I tape Jimmy for work, but that’s a lie. I tape it because I find him very entertaining in that faster-than-a-speeding-bullet kind of way that I enjoy when I’ve had too much caffeine. He also seems to me like a nice guy; he has no desire to do anything other than waterski through the surface of interviews with guests who can’t wait to come on his show. No deep sea diving into the guest’s issues the way Letterman does. Remember Letterman ‘s interview with Paris Hilton? She was on the show to tout her ridiculous products, and everyone was watching to see if she had changed anything about herself that had previously landed her in the slammer. Fallon is never going to do that interview.

Watching late night TV is about winding down. It’s about not rushing through anything. It’s about falling asleep during the show, or turning out the light just after the host signs off. Well, you can’t watch Fallon late at night because you will be wired — on the prowl wired — and no way are you going to drift off to sleep during the show, or even soon after. And the kind of fifteen-minute, one-commercial interview that often gives us a real look into a star’s inner self is never going to happen while Fallon and said star play beer pong.

So, I can wind down with Letterman’s style, but not with any of these new shows — Fallon, Kimmel, et al. The new breed of late-night TV hosts bring technology and social media to the bedroom, and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Again, please understand: I like Fallon’s show. I like watching parts of it; not the silly stuff but the fun, political stuff. I loved Billy Joel’s and Springsteen’s duets with Fallon. More than 10 million views on You Tube between the two. Not too shabby. But I like to watch them while I am homo sapien upright, not when I’m drifting off to sleep horizontally.

My fear is that the networks don’t realize there is a place for both types of late night show. Losing Letterman is okay, I guess. I will miss him the way I missed Johnny Carson. I cried during Johnny’s last show and eagerly watched the first few shows featuring his replacement, Jay Leno. I never took to Jay, however, and I moved to Letterman with relative ease. It’s sort of like transitioning from H1 (husband one) to H2 — different, but comfortably similar.

So hear me, NBC. Do not try to make Fallon into a mini-me replacement for Letterman. Seek blue ocean. Be bold, and recognize that one size does not fit all, and that Fallon is a genius at what he does. You do not want to go in the ring with him. Go into the ring with someone else, someone who delves a little deeper into each night’s topic. Please hear me. Actually, I’m available for the job if you want. Choose me. Pick me.

Either way, know Mr. Letterman that your place in television history is secure, and that you will be remembered with great affection. Your first monologue after 911. Your confrontation with Bill O’Reilly. Your gentle prodding of guests in order to get them to comment on difficult subjects. Your show was usually flawless, even when it’s a little ‘quiet’. Even your apology to Oprah was perfect.

So, let’s make sure we speak of Letterman’s show in the present tense until it’s not on anymore. Let’s thank Letterman for being a part of our lives through the good and the bad. And, let’s hope they don’t replace him with a mirror image of Fallon.

History Movies & TV Music News Politics

Remembering…Those Who Left in 2012

There were a lot of people who made up the wallpaper of my life who died in 2012. I took some time over the past few days celebrating their lives (a year-end tradition of mine) and reliving some of what they brought to me. Thought I’d share.

Farewell Andy Williams. I listened to your Moon River yesterday and was brought back to Susan Sparrow’s family, and our trek north to their house on the lake, where we begged her fabulous parents to play it over and over again on the 8 track tape player they had in their car. You ‘ole dream maker, you, it was a great time, and I thank you.

Nora Ephron, you told the stories of my girlfriends and my life in ways that meant we could laugh about our quirks, cry about our sorrows, and know that the best of us is always underneath the worst of us. I watched When Harry Met Sally and my favorite scene is still the scene when she orders – her way, which of course, is my way.

Favorite line in the movie?

“Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally: Which one am I?
Harry: You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.” 

Andy Griffith. Kind, kind Andy, who calmed the waters for sleep when I was a kid, who made you think that Mayberry was a real place where everyone took care of each other, a place far from where I lived, but still a place for some great kid like Opie. I was glad Andy was always Andy and didn’t go on to play other roles that would diminish his presence as one of those men you could hope to find for your life sometime.

Whitney Houston. The Bodyguard. One of my very favorite movies seen during a blizzard with the fabulous Meg Donnelly. The movie is filled with songs that defined the best and worst love affair of my life. Whitney’s I Will Always Love You brings back slamming doors and softly understood truths that made divorce recoverable, and a great love something to leave behind with grace. Ok, truth is, I wasn’t always graceful while doing it, but in the end, I am happy with who I became.

Neil Armstrong. You will never die. You will always be on the moon that night, and I am so proud to have been there when you did it. I blogged about the experience, and stand by it being one of the great American moments of my life. Rest in peace, and thanks again.

Dick Clark. Saturday mornings. I remember one Saturday my father had my sisters and I dancing along with them and I twisted with a fierceness that would have made The Gladiator proud. Never saw Dick dance?

Maurice Sendak, the writer of Where the Wild Things Are. Where are those wild things anyway? One of the great books of all time, and I will have to send it to a few of my nieces/nephews this year in his honor.

Mrs. Landingham died this year. She also died on my favorite T.V. series of all time, The West WingShe has a real name, Kathryn Joosten. There is a great scene in The West Wing, when she is describing her sons who died in Vietnam. Take a look if you have never seen it.

Can’t forget Davy Jones from The Monkeys. Daydream Believer? Wore the needle down on my record player. Cheer up sleepy Jean. Oh what can it mean to a daydreamer and a homecoming queen? What the hell does that mean? No matter.

Sally Ride was the first women who flew is space. She was great. She wasn’t scared heading up there, or didn’t seem to be, and she made many, many young girls reach for the stars in every way possible. I can’t help but wonder if I had been a young girl when she went up, if it would have made me believe in things possible that didn’t seem to be when I was a girl. Fly Sally Fly!

Then there were twenty-six souls who perished in Connecticut at the hand of a madman, whose name doesn’t deserve to be printed here. I took a moment to think of them all, and I said each name out loud. Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski,  Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison N. Wyatt. Rest in peace, each of you.

So ends my trip down Memory Lane this year, and my homage to some pretty fabulous people, who brought great joy and richness to our lives.

Fashion History News

Haiti. What is the message?

Haiti. Where to begin? What to say? No words. What a surprise.

Seeing Bush and Clinton together yesterday reminded me about the best of Americans. It’s no secret that I think Bush is just this side of the devil, but watching his first venture out of retirement with Clinton on the news programs Sunday morning, I am reminded that the good in each of us lies in our ability to come together when necessary, when anyone needs us across this globe we all call home. Thanks George, I know it was not easy to do it, especially when idiot pundits start asking about the parallels between Katrina and Haiti, and what did you learn in Katrina that will help you deal with this more productively?

No tragedy this great has a parallel. It is unique unto itself. And, so was Katrina, and so was 9-11. Let us look at it without the haze of the past tragedies and let it have its own moment in time.

But, here is the thing. Haiti was a poor country in dire straights long before this earthquake rocked her shores. Actually, it’s the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Port-au-Prince is a city built to house 400,000 but 2,000,000 people live(d) there. For decades, the US has put billions into Haiti with little or no improvement in the quality of life for its citizens. Haiti’s crushing debt service of $50 billion per year has made her unable to grow, and the corruption that is as consistent as the lapping shores has made it virtually impossible for true change to take place. Lifting the trade restrictions is a must. Trying to make sure the billions of donated dollars get where they are supposed to go is another. You don’t give a five-year-old $100 in a candy store and expect them to buy a glass of water. Oversight. O V E R S I G H T.

What now for we individuals who feel compelled to do something? How to help? For me, it’s not money to one group or another. I’m not sure what I will do, but I think I will do it a year from now. I want to marinate in this feeling of obligation for awhile. I don’t want to purge it with a contribution in this compelling moment. I want to take time; put together a personal plan to do something that will be more than open my checkbook. Perhaps sponsor someone to come here and go to college; asking friends to group together to do it? Go down there for a month and build something with friends and family? I don’t know, but I do know that a $10 text message isn’t going to do it for me. Not this time. I did that with Katrina, and while it felt good in the moment, it wasn’t really the answer.

Haiti’s future is the gift from this tragedy.  That is the opportunity, or the glass half full, or the hope for a tomorrow. And, while it’s hard to even think about that right now, that’s the future for Haiti. It was bad before and we didn’t notice. I’m reminded yet again of the fabulous Oprah who said, “God first whispers to you, if you don’t listen, he speaks a little louder. If you still don’t listen, he hits you over the head.” Ok, you have my attention. I will not look away. I promise.