Show us your crucifix, then you can come in.

If this weren’t all coming down along party lines, I could accept the fact that some governors want to accept Syrian refugees and others don’t. But that’s not the way it’s happening: the Democrats (all but one) say yes and the Republicans say no. Lock step. Like always.

The irony here is that the governors can squawk all they want—they still can’t close their borders. The victims, then, will be the refugees themselves who, although they are allowed to reside in a given state, will face hostility, alienation, and probably—if the last few days are any indication—harassment and abuse. And it will be, if not government sanctioned, at least government winked at. (Let’s go shoot up a mosque—it’s the American way.)

In 1927 two anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were put to death for the murder of a guard and a paymaster during a robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, seven years earlier. In truth they didn’t rob anybody. They couldn’t have been there. But they were foreigners with disturbing political views, and as such were easy marks. Make no mistake—they were radicals, part of a larger group that had been implicated in several criminal acts, but the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti remains a prime example of ethnic prejudice in this country. There are other:

The 1919 deportation of “Reds.”

The trial of the “Scottsboro Boys.”

The internment of Americans with Japanese heritage in the forties.

Eisenhower’s insensitively named “Operation Wetback.”

America has a long and rich history of abusing “the different.” But we also have a long and rich history of accepting them. The key word in the term Syrian refugees should not be Syrian, and we should realize that. So should some of the Republican presidential candidates:

  • Chris Christie would keep out all Syrians, even orphan children. (He is good at blocking bridges.)
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a former presidential candidate will utilize all lawful means to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the state.
  • John Kasich, who often sounds like the one voice of reason on the debate stage,wrote to the president on Monday asking him to stop sending Syrians to Ohio…as if President Obama owns a fleet of Fed-Ex trucks that he’s loading behind the White House.
  • And in what is far and away the most astonishingly stupid solution yet, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want to allow only Christian Syrians into the United States because they couldn’t possibly pose a threat. I guess all that Constitutional stuff about religion didn’t take, or they never had a history course, or they forgot that Timothy McVeigh was raised a Catholic.

These politicians represent an ignorant nativism that serves as ongoing recruiting posters for ISIS. They pander to the worst in all of us and they seize upon our fears at a time when we’re most vulnerable. I understand the worry—nobody could view last weekend’s events in Paris and feel the least bit secure, but can we at least make a distinction between refugees and psychopaths? If we can use that as a starting point, maybe we can understand that we have less to fear from Syrian orphans than we do from our home-grown terrorists like McVeigh, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, Dylann Roof, the Baltimore snipers (Muhammad and Malvo) and a whole catalog of others.

You want to stop ISIS? You cut their legs out from under them by giving its adherents less fuel for their hatred, not more.

 

 

A gun, an axe, and a shovel walk into a bar….

For all the gun enthusiasts who claim I’m always attacking them—something to make them feel better:

Here’s what the gun enthusiasts glean from that dialogue: “A gun is a tool; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

I thought about the statement and did a search for famous axe-murderers. Well, there’s Lizzie Borden, though she was acquitted of the crime, so I’m not sure if she even counts. The other names aren’t that famous, and Jake Bird, the gold standard of axe murderers, claimed to have killed forty-four people as he hoboed about the countryside—and most of us have never even heard of him. He was hanged for one such crime in 1949. Nobody ever proved he had committed others. I guess the axe has failed miserably as a murder weapon.

Now shovel-murderers are even harder to find; in fact, despite Shane’s comments, screwdrivers and chisels are much more dangerous than shovels, and don’t even get me started on awls!

Shane was one of the all-time great films based on a pretty darn good book, but that doesn’t mean that what the actor (Alan Ladd) read from his script is any more meaningful than Kate Winslet’s assurance to Leonardo DiCaprio near the end of Titanic that she’ll never let go…which she did…about ten seconds later. Movies are great fun, but they’re movies; and all the gunnuts (I like it as one word) who want to quote Shane should not forget that he also says this:

“[T]here’s no living with…with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand.”

Which brings me, finally, to the following:

Gun show

If you’re reading my blog, you’re probably not at the firearm and knife show perusing the rifles, shotguns, and “fine militaria.” And if you’re not there, you might be interested in what I have planned for next year: the Shane Memorial (pretty sure he’s dead) Axe and Shovel Show. We can have it at Home Depot or Lowe’s or your local independent axe and shovel dealer.

Let me know if you’re interested.

Please: no awls.

The Liberal Press—All the News We Like We’ll Print

Okay, I’ve read the article. You know which one—the editorial in the Wesleyan newspaper, the Argus, that has resulted in the paper receiving less funding than it used to.

http://wesleyanargus.com/2015/09/14/of-race-and-sex/#

It’s not a great article, and Brian Stascavage, its author, seems at times to be laboring with the language, and with the differences between a feature and an op-ed piece.

That’s all irrelevant, really. His basic premise (if you don’t want to read it all) is that the Black Lives Matter movement may not be accomplishing its stated goals and may in fact be doing some harm. He cites a fair number of specifics, and though I might argue some of his opinions, I’ve heard more radical and hate-filled diatribes on cable under the guise of news and on radio from conservative talk-show hosts. I mention them because Mr. Stascavage is a conservative—and there’s the rub.

Colleges, Wesleyan among them, have always epitomized liberal and progressive thinking, and if this remains the case, Mr. Stascavage may very well feel outnumbered. But colleges have also been bastions of free speech, and lately there has been a disturbing trend to prohibit conservatives from participating in the academic exchange of ideas—speaking at forums, at commencement exercises, etc. It appears that liberals (and yes, I am one) like opposing points of view until the points of view oppose the liberals. That this attitude has spread to the press is particularly disturbing. If the conservatives want to scream second amendment abuse, shouldn’t the liberals be screaming similarly about the first amendment? If the conservatives have a pet amendment, shouldn’t liberals have one too? Instead, the Wesleyan Student Government , in an appalling display of lockstep intolerance, voted 27-0 to defund the Argus. Twenty-seven to nil. Now the conservatives apparently own the first amendment too. What’s left for us liberals to latch onto—the fact that we don’t have to quarter soldiers during peacetime?

I choose not to watch Fox News—it annoys me. I choose not to listen to Rush Limbaugh. Same reason. But those entities have as much right to express opinions as, well, as Brian Stascavage does. You can oppose them, defy them, even use their own arguments against them, but when you prevent them from speaking, you’re standing squarely on the moral low ground.

It’s interesting that Argus, in Greek mythology, was a creature with 100 eyes. Apparently at Wesleyan they’re mostly shut.

A Not-So-Modest Proposal

I usually refrain from writing about guns because they have become such a volatile subject. All the legislation seems for naught, and the legislators are becoming increasingly idiotic. To wit:

All the breast-beating after each new incident seems to lead us further into despair, but here may be a solution, one that will satisfy the gun owner and the anti-gun faction.

First, some background: we’ve all heard the catchphrase guns don’t kill people; people kill people. It makes a really keen bumper sticker—and not only on a pickup truck. The alternate phrase promoted by the gun lobby, guns don’t kill people, America’s failure to treat the mentally ill kills people just hasn’t caught on. My solution really revolves around the original anyway, and it gives people who believe it a chance to say it loud and often.

Here’s how it works, let’s say there’s another mass killing where some angry young man (it’s usually a man) with a gun senselessly slaughters a lot of innocent people. You know it will happen again—there are 300 million guns out there—someone’s going to use them. So here’s the plan that I like to call, The Plan.

Whenever there is a mass killing (defined, I’m told, as more than four) some member of Congress who has actively opposed sane gun legislation must visit the family of each victim, present said family with a free bumper sticker (or wall hanging if the people don’t have a car) and read the words aloud, and with feeling: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. If the legislators believe it—and aren’t in bed with the NRA—let them own it, and let them own it in front of those who know exactly what kills people. These traveling legislators will be like the Westboro Baptist Church, compounding misery wherever they go.

As always there are those who will claim that this plan should only be applicable to assault rifles, or long guns, or any automatic weapons. I know that once you begin making exceptions, a plan won’t work. But I can compromise.

Muskets.

If a mass killing is committed with a musket, anti-gun-law legislators can stay home. Why? First off, the smooth bore of a musket barrel makes hitting anything smaller than the Grand Canyon pretty much impossible. Second, the time it takes to reload is enough time for the police in the next county to take down the shooter…or for prospective victims to kick the living daylights out of the gutless little coward. (Editorializing. Sorry.)

So muskets then.

That’s it. Simple. Nobody gets hurt, and better still, no gun owners have to relinquish their cherished Second Amendment rights (which were designed for muskets anyway.) And the best part is that the legislators themselves don’t have to believe a word of that catchphrase; they simply have to repeat it.

Just as they do now.

Message from Nevada

Although I cannot vouch for its authenticity, this appears to be an intercepted email from Clive Bundy to Pope Francis:

Dear Mr. Pope,

I gots to tell you, I ain’t real happy today on account of your meeting up with that Kim Davis person from down there in kentucky. It ain’t on account of I don’t agree with her—I don’t see no reason either for gay people to get married, not in the U.S. of A where our sons and daughters been fightin’ for freedom. And it was mighty good of her to take the Jesus side of this, because it was Jesus who said right there in the Bible that he was agin gay marriage, ‘ceptin I think he used the word homosexual. It’s in one of the chapters near the end, Genesee or Exitus or somethin’.

So right on, your honor, you and them cardinals, but if you was gonna talk with her, then what about me? I don’t want to brag, but I’m disobeying the government and the constitution and that there president which he wasn’t even born here and I been doing that way better than she is—been doin’ it for a year now. Plus, I got 600,000 acres—that’s a spread about ten times the size of yours out there in Rome—and I got livestock eatin’ for free to provide good steaks for Americans who can afford it. Kim Davis? Well she got a bunch of husbands, but that ain’t nothin’. I know cattle got more husbands than she does, if you know what I mean.

Now I hear you told that woman to hang in there or somethin’ like that. I got no problem with that. I always say it’s the duty of every American to put his self above the law when that law don’t suit him. That’s why I like that Tea Party bunch—that’s what you call their founding principle. After all, the constitution ain’t no more than a piece of paper some old guy dreamed up about a hundred years ago. We ain’t even gonna keep his face on the ten-dollar bill anymore so that shows you. See what I mean about you having a little confab with Kim Davis? All she did was say no to some guys fixin’ to marry each other—what I did was get a lot of crazy people with guns all worked up and ready to shoot a bunch of lawmen. Bloodshed and war. See the difference, your highness? (Does that Vatican place have a militia? You can get back to me on that.)

Anyway, next time you’s in the states, instead of kissin’ up to people in congress (some of them’s gay, you know? Plus they got the Negro) y’all come out to Nevada and I’ll slaughter you up a steak make you glad Fridays don’t count nothin’ for catholics anymore.

Clive

ps: I’m thinkin’ now maybe you don’t know me, so here I am on the TV. And before you ask, yes, I can get you a hat like that. http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2014/04/24/34933/bundy-20140419-race

Boehner, Obama, and Respect

I’ve decided to unfollow Occupy Democrats.

I realize that unfollow is a word that exists only in the artificial world of social media, but until unfollow with extreme prejudice or some other nonce word becomes an option, I’ll live with unfollow. I also know that one apostate like me isn’t going to shut anybody down—Occupy Democrats will plow ahead—so I’m doing this only to make myself feel better.

This non-earthshaking decision is primarily the result of online comments on OD concerning John Boehner’s resignation. I’ve already stated that he may turn out to be one of the worst House Speakers in history, but regardless of his record, and regardless of how much I disagree with just over 100% of everything he says, he has devoted (by my reckoning) about sixty percent of his life to public service. He deserves better than comments like this:

He’s a pickled nose red faced drunk, this boehner guy. Hopefully he shoots himself.

and this dictionary-deprived observer’s “intelligent” assessment:

lmao good riddens.

and finally

One jerk down, one insane party to send to hell, go!!! (Apparently the three exclamation points mean that it’s true.)

I understand that the Internet is riddled with idiots, and that I may be one of them in some people’s opinion, but there ought to be some ground rules—the very least of which is that you don’t vanquish a vanquished opponent.

Look, a lifetime of public service has to count for something, and Internet snipers who have probably never devoted a moment to the well being of others haven’t earned the right to besmirch the good name of anyone, even someone whose politics antagonize them. Boehner’s party is wrong about immigration, about Planned Parenthood, about gay marriage, about school vouchers, about climate change—the list gets longer every day. The answer? Vote these people out of office or don’t vote them in. Name-calling doesn’t really accomplish much.

Boehner’s gone—you can be happy with that. Someone even more willing to kow-tow to the tea party may replace him—be ready. But if you’re one of those who lament the ongoing disrespect for President Obama, you can’t then turn around and be just as disrespectful, abusive, and vulgar to someone who has tried to be of service to his country. It’s not a fee-speech issue: we can all say what we want. But why would we waste our collective breath on distasteful and crude sniping that can do no one any good?

Will he fight crime from the inside?

Ernie Newton, a politician who should know a thing or two about the legal system since he has spent the last decade in and out of prison, has a theory as to why incumbent mayor Bill Finch lost the recent primary in Bridgeport. According to Newton, it’s really pretty simple: Finch spent more time talking about ex-mayor Joe Ganim’s time behind bars than Finch’s own accomplishments as mayor. Ordinarily, that might be enough to sway the voters, but as Newton pointed out—in Bridgeport everyone knows somebody who’s been in jail. It’s no big deal.

It’s an exaggeration of course, but there’s some truth to it. Beyond that, most people in jail claim innocence, as do their families and friends, It’s not a big leap for them to think that Ganim might have been railroaded also, though the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming—he belonged in jail. But in Bridgeport and in most big cities, who usually goes to jail? The poor minorities of course who can’t afford a shrewd lawyer to get them off. Not too many young white males occupy prison cells for minor drug transgressions and trivial infractions; but don’t worry, all those cells in this prison-riddled country are being filled with their poor/minority counterparts.

Joe Ganim’s hardcore supporters claim that he did a great deal to resurrect Bridgeport in the early part of this century; unfortunately he apparently used dishonest means and he never failed to feather his own nest. Bill Finch seems to have continued to move the city forward—legally—and probably deserved the chance to continue. I don’t know—I don’t live in Bridgeport. It is ironic though, that candidates are always urged run on the issues but seldom do, Bill Finch could have done so and won. Instead, he’s scrambling just to get on the ballot.

I doubt if this will slow down attack campaigns, but it is something to consider.

People’s Issues

That’s a term you don’t hear too often, not with two women being considered viable choices for the presidency. We do seem interested in women’s issues, but truly there’s no real difference between men’s and women’s concerns—the difference lies in the approach.

I only mention this because Carly Fiorina has suddenly become the darling of the American public, mainly because she was able to put Donald Trump in his place. First off, he has no place; and second, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to outshine a tantrum-throwing child—just being present is generally enough. So before you start hoisting the Carly banners over your roof, consider these facts:

First, her tenure at Hewlett-Packard was at best, controversial and at worst disastrous. In 2005 H-P stocks fell in value by half and 30,000 workers received pink slips. This occurred several years before the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. Her claim that the business doubled is true—true because H-P acquired Compaq. Ms. Fiorina was subsequently fired.

Second, and more damning (good people do sometimes get fired) is this war against Planned Parenthood. Whatever your moral convictions may be, she lied in the debate, fabricating a story about a video she dared us to watch. That’s an easy dare—the video doesn’t exist. It never existed. The one that does exist simply shows a stillborn baby; and as tragic as that may be, it is not by any definition an abortion. Placing blame on an agency for what may very well have been a family’s heartbreak shows a callous desperation. Yep, politicians lie. I get that. But this lie seems particularly cynical.

Abortion is not a woman’s issue—it’s a Constitutional right. And if it weren’t, it still wouldn’t be a woman’s issue: it’s a decision very often arrived at by a woman and her partner; in some cases a young girl and her parents. And as Ms. Fiorina undoubtedly knows, people of her social standing will continue to find abortions and all manner of fine health care when they need them. The poor, as usual, will not. If you want to call her stance the moral high ground, fine; but I’ll call it what it is: another skirmish in the war against Americans who have the least.

Still looking for a women’s issue? How about pay inequity? Here’s what Ms. Fiorina said about that last year in an interview:

“I think in some cases we just have to take on the facts. There are plenty of laws in place today that a woman can look to if she’s truly discriminated against at work, where she’s actually earning less for the same job as her male counterpart. So the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — these are tokens. They’re gestures. They don’t truly help women advance.”

Sound familiar? She said the same thing in Wednesday’s debate when asked about putting a woman on U.S. currency—it’s just a gesture. But considering we’re one of those civilized nations never to have elected a woman president (like Qatar and North Korea) maybe a gesture here and there would be acceptable. It’s certainly true that passing a law doesn’t change hearts and minds—the Civil Rights Act is fifty-one years old and we’re still fighting battles, but sometimes passing a law can be a good first step.

If you support Carly Fiorina because you’re a conservative Republican or a Christian conservative and she represents your beliefs, then fine. But if you’re a progressive interested in reducing wealth inequality and giving poor people the same health care opportunities as the rich, then putting Donald Trump in his place for calling her ugly should not be enough to earn your vote.

Three is always the charm

Every team in the NFL must be fuming that Roger Goodell couldn’t make stick the accusation/rumor/certainty that the New England Patriots cheated their way through the playoffs last season (and probably had done it for the last dozen or so years).

Every team, that is, but one: the N. Y. Giants.

I root against the Giants, but in 2008 when they were about to face Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, I felt pretty confident that the so-called G-men were going down. They didn’t go down. Instead Brady was forced to throw 48 passes, the Pats scored two touchdowns when they should have scored two dozen, and for the pièce de reśistance, David Tyree caught one of Eli Manning’s passes with his helmet: Giants 17; Pats 14; me, sick.

In 2012 came the rematch and I felt pretty confident that the so-called G-men were going down. (Did I say that already?) But Brady’s deflated pass missed Wes Welker and the Giants went 88 yards against a Patriot defense that had apparently elected to ignore the information they stole from the Giants locker room: Giants 21, Patriots, 17. Me? Since I hadn’t recovered from the nausea of 2008….

You can’t write a piece like this without a theory, so here’s mine: the Giants playbook is such a mess that stealing it does no good. “They have this play,” Pats coach Bill Belichick might have said, “where a guy catches the ball on his helmet. Relax guys, looks like another Super Bowl ring.”

Right prediction; wrong team.

Tonight the Patriots begin the defense of their title against the Pittsburgh Steelers, long-time rivals. Some minor items: the Patriots’ LeGarrette Blount will sit this one out for for violating the league’s drug policy; Pittsburgh’s top running back Le’Veon Bell is serving the first game of a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy; and Steeler receiver Martavius Bryant also starts his four-game ban for violating the drug policy. Minor.

Of interest also, Roger Goodell will sit this one out, opting to stay out of the hornets’ nest that will be Foxboro. He’ll watch it on TV instead and be able to tweet others on his favorite banners and signs. There should be some good ones—I don’t think they’ll be complimentary. Goodell, whose stock this month has dropped more rapidly than the Shanghai exchange, should learn from his NHL counterpart, Gary Bettman who, year after year, appears at center ice as disenchanted fans of some losing team cascade boos down upon him. Bettman, unmoved, just smiles and goes right on talking. Perhaps he gained this knowledge during his time at Cornell University and New York University School of Law, at the same time learning not to rush to judgments nobody would or could support.

Meanwhile the Giants—remember them?—probably need only a wild-card finish and another February date with New England to guaranty Eli Manning a spot in Canton. They did it the last two presidential-election years—how hard can the third one be?

Orsillo and Remy—elevation and improvement

With apologies to my children and my late father, I don’t like the Red Sox. It’s in my DNA. I feel that I should admit that right up front just so you know where I stand.

In 1987 and 1988 the team I root for—the Yankees—won 54% of their games but finished completely out of contention in fourth and fifth place—a tribute to the caliber of teams in the eighties and further proof of the watered-down playoff system that will probably even find a spot for the 2015 Yankees.

The ’87 and ’88 Yankees were not going to play in the World Series—they weren’t very good, just as the Red Sox aren’t very good this year.

But during those two seasons the Yankees’ radio play-by-play was handled by the duo of Hank Greenwald and Tommy Hutton—unknown quantities in New York. (They replaced Phil Rizzuto.) Greenwald and Hutton were terrifically entertaining. They broadcast the games with accuracy and enthusiasm, but never took themselves or the sport that seriously. Baseball was a game and they knew it. But at the end of the 1988 season, they were released—apparently they lacked the dignity to broadcast for the monolith that is the Yankees. The job was given to John Sterling—just thought you should know.

When I read recently about the release of the Red Sox’s Don Orsillo, I thought of Hutton and Greenwald and how the game score was always less important than their take on the action or their banter during baseball’s dead spots, of which there are many. Diehard Yankee fan that I am, occasionally I’ll take a look at NESN and watch some of a Sox game. I may not be rooting for them, and the game may have no significance in the standings, but I’ll stay anyway just to hear Orsillo and Remy. They just get it right. I’m amazed that the Sox ownership doesn’t realize that when the team is going nowhere, the fans need some other reason to watch and that the current broadcasting team provides that. After all, who hasn’t watched a meaningless Dodgers game on MLB Network just to hear Vin Scully?

Sox co-owner Tom Werner was quoted as saying the broadcast booth needed to be re-energized, then backed off and said elevated or improved. But seriously, do the Red Sox need more gravitas in the booth or someone who can play left field?

Incidentally, Hank Greenwald finished his career with the San Francisco Giants after which he performed other Bay Area broadcasting assignments; Tommy Hutton has been the color analyst for the Miami Marlins since 1997. Don Orsillo will land on his feet too, and if he’s not announcing baseball next season, it will be because he doesn’t want to.