Friday, February 23, 2018

Survey Says...!

What good is any survey? People who use them for evidence tend to point to them only when they confirm the point they were going to make themselves. In a world that includes Al Gore's Internet as a means to gather numbers and opinions, you can have your pick of evidence. Chocolate syrup is the most popular ice cream topping, for instance. Rome ranks number one in the race to determine the best place to visit on a vacation. The best record store is Hard Wax in Berlin. You don't have to look long to find the epitome of whatever category you might want to explore. The greatest chess game ever? Gerry Kasparov versus Deep Blue back in 1997. 
Of course, all of these are opinions, choices that fell outside the spectrum such as the nut who likes to put ground glass on their ice cream don't get a lot of play after they have been summarily dismissed. And it's probably not a good idea to ask a group of eight year olds where their favorite record store is. Records? What are those? 
But political scientists ought to be able to gather together and make a comprehensive list of the American presidents from best to worst. We should trust them, right? They're scientists. It just so happens that a group of political scientists did just that and released the "Official Results of the 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey." Three hundred twenty surveys were issued and they received one hundred seventy "usable responses." This makes me wonder just exactly what the unusable. Returned via regular mail, scrawled in crayon, "Alfred E. Neuman." 
Those that were returned in a usable fashion were culled and calculated and your number one greatest president turns out to be Abraham Lincoln. No big surprise there, with the top five rounding out with George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. Sure, I know there will be those who will want to argue the Teddy before Thomas ordination, but it's pretty hard to argue with that list.
Which brings us to the ground glass. At the bottom of the list we find the current occupant of the Oval Office. Below James Buchanan and William Henry Harrison. Even Richard Nixon sits at a very comfortable thirty-three. Barack Obama is number eight, up ten spots since the last time the survey was taken four years ago. If the current "President" were to make that kind of leap in four years, he would still rank just behind Nixon. 
Now it's time to take a survey to find out who believes in surveys. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018


I am so proud of our children. When they woke up one day and realized that they were being slaughtered, they decided to do something about it. When they were told that their elected representatives were sending them thoughts and prayers, they said "thank you, no." Okay. They didn't say that exactly. They did have some suggestions about what their elected representatives could  do with their thoughts and prayers. Six years after Sandy Hook. Nineteen years after Columbine. A week after Parkland. Thoughts and prayers are not filling the holes left by the deaths of our children.
These children were not killed by foreign terrorists or illegal immigrants. They were killed by Americans, many of whom were the same age or just a little older than their victims. And now, decades after this terrible series of events began to unfold, those potential victims have had enough. They aren't going to stand around like sheep waiting to become yet another object for thoughts and prayers.

They are raising their voices. They are calling for action. They are walking out and laying down. In front of the White House. On President's Day. While the current "President" was honoring the victims of the most recent killing by not playing golf, students from the Washington D.C. area gathered in the street in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and staged a die-in. They laid there, silently, as cameras rolled and adults standing around the spectacle chanted "Shame, shame, shame."

I wondered why they hadn't chosen the front gates of Mar-a-Lago for their action, but then I realized that this is a savvy group. There are funerals taking place in real life this weekend. In Florida.

Showing up there would be in the poorest possible taste. Like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan arriving this past weekend at the Key Biscayne Ritz-Carlton for a fundraiser. These school shootings are ruining every party this season.

Do not expect the children to make this a one-off, either. There are walkouts and marches planned in the weeks and the months ahead. And if anybody understands how to effectively use social media, it's those darn kids. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

As they should be.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


"So, you understand how this works?"
"I say a word, and you say the first thing that pops into your head."
"Very good."
"We haven't started yet."
"Ahem. Cat."
"Many sides. Many sides."
"Pardon me?"
"Only if you deserve it."
"Uh  huh, let's see."
"Excuse me?"
"You gotta ask?"
"I think we're about done here."
"I think we're done here."
"No. We're finished."
"Says who?"
"Time to go."
"Make America Great Again!"
"Please get out of my office."
"You're fired!"
"Oh my god."
"Thoughts and  prayers!"
"Beachfront property."
- end of transmission-

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

First Response

It wasn't the fact that he went to Florida to meet with victims and first responders. It wasn't that he was on his way to Florida to hang out at his private golf club for the long weekend anyway. It wasn't that he had been blaming any and every possible thing other than the availability of semi-automatic weapons to children who cannot buy their own beer. It was the grin.
It was a smirk.
The photo opportunity that our "President" chose to splash across the banner of his Twitter page had him giving his pompous thumbs-up to a group of heroes who never should have been put in the position of patching up high school kids with multiple gunshot wounds. I cannot imagine the inner strength required to perform such a grisly, unthinkable task. Suddenly a quiet suburban emergency room is transformed into a war zone. These doctors, nurses, paramedics, law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens who jumped into that fray and saved lives have my respect and appreciation. Showing up on the day that first of the victims were being laid to rest, this paunchy orange twit expressed his understanding of the situation in the most insipid way possible.
In the next week, seventeen funerals will be held. If the "President" has clue one he and his thumb will avoid these events if he wants to avoid at least the suggestion if not direct instruction about where that thumb ought to go.
That smirk.
What does this man know about the pain that runs through Parkland, Florida? Aurora, Colorado? Newtown, Connecticut? This is a man who brags about having a button on his desk with which he can dispatch nuclear missiles on his angry whim. This is a man who is willing to dispatch what he feels is justice with that same simple gesture of which he seems so fond. He is not so much a president as a throwback to Roman emperors. Outside the palace, cities are burning. Children are dying. And teachers. Americans. While he plays golf.
While all of this was going on, teenagers in Florida, and across the country were finding their voices. Kids who are just about to turn the age where they can buy an AR-15. And vote. Reading these messages from our youth, I think I know which one they're going to choose. I wonder if he'll be smirking then.

Monday, February 19, 2018


"Penguins don't come from next door. They come from the Antarctic." This is the kind of logic that pervades a discussion about how a penguin came to rest on the top of a television set in a Monty Python skit. As the two pepperpots continue to debate the origins of this flightless fowl, one of them suggests it came from the zoo. Which zoo? Well, if it was from the zoo, it would have "property of the zoo" stamped on it.
"There, I run rings 'round you logically," she exclaims. This is just before the announcer on the television lets us all know that it is time for the penguin to explode.
I understand that I have done exactly no justice to the humor found within that classic bit of comedy, but I hope the sense of absurdity continues to shine. Pretending there is an ipso-facto path to be followed when a visitor from the South Pole is found perched on your home entertainment center just prior to having that bird blow up was what I was reminded when I read the headline: "Schools have 'option' to arm teachers, Education secretary says." Secretary Betsy DeVos said, "This is an important issue for all states to grapple with and to tackle. I think this needs to be part of the broader, more robust conversation about how can we avoid these things in the future, and how can we ensure that when my child, your child, goes to school in the morning, they're going to go to a safe and nurturing environment." This is why she believes states "clearly have the opportunity and the option" to allow teachers who have had weapons training to carry guns on campus.
Within a breath, Secretary Betsy used the words "safe and nurturing environment" and the option to carry guns on campus. This is the suggestion the Secretary of Education offered up in the wake of seventeen people dying from gunfire at a school. The logic is stunning. 
And now it's time for the penguin on top of your television to explode. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Never-Ending Story

Forty-nine days. What would a reasonable number of mass shootings be for that time period? If you're thinking zero, then we agree. Any other number of mass shootings in America, a country which is not currently experiencing heavy casualties other than at our own hands, is unacceptable. And yet, here we are again, with that same tape loop that drones on about the victims and the shooter and we all become numb to the noise that is dangerously close to becoming background.
Parkland, Florida joins the list of cities and towns that have experienced a school shooting, a mass shooting, a murder that expresses once again just how important the Second Amendment is to us as a nation. That right to bear arms is so fiercely protected that we cannot protect children at school.
Oops. Sorry. I keep forgetting that now is not the time for debate or discussion. Now is the time for thoughts and prayers. The challenge being that we seem to be in that same never-ending loop of excuses that we are in prayer. While we wait for a time to become available on that discussion calendar, we are told our best bet is to load up and get ready to defend ourselves. Gun free zones? What are those? In a country that has a gun for every man, woman and child, it seems that creating such a place would be on a par with finding a Starbucks-free zone
Seventeen more family portraits torn apart. Dozens more will have a hole where that person never had a chance to grow up and be a part of a solution. To anything. We wring our hands and wish that it were different while the carnage continues. Here is a sample of the conversation we are allowed to have: "I know he had his own problems, but I never thought he would be capable of this. I stopped seeing him before his mom passed away because I ended up moving, but we would still contact each other every other day. I did know he really did like guns a lot, but I didn’t think he would cause such tragedy." 
This kind of surprise has become tired and less than surprising. There is a very tired meme out there about Insanity: It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Point the gun, pull the trigger. The results are the same. Over and over. It would be amazing if the deaths could take a holiday while we have a discussion about assault rifles and background checks and bump stocks. In case that window is very brief, here are my answers: No, yes and no. In that order, please. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Room For Waiting

Sitting in a jury assembly room is a good time to think about The System. I can groan and mope about how yet another year has passed, indicated by my annual jury summons. Why me and all that rot. When I signed up for all this democracy junk I had no idea what it would entail. First there was all that voting, which necessitated being alert to the way things were being run, and my interest in being part all that running. Then I went and bought property and got myself a fixed address. What a great idea. It made me so much easier to track. On  top of all that, I decided to pay my taxes regularly and give my opinions to those who asked and my signatures to petitions with  whom I agreed. It is really no surprise at all that I am a part of that process.
Which is why, sitting in this  jury assembly room that  I was so gratified to read that a second judge had blocked the "President's" decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The "President's" lawyers are in the midst of asking the Supreme Court to overturn  the initial judge's decision, from California of course. This second ruling, from Brooklyn of course, makes that sledding pretty tough. The "President" wanted to get rid of DACA back in September, calling it unconstitutional. It would seem that judges across the country, whose job it is to determine the legality of laws, have other opinions. That's what they call them, you know. Opinions. And judgments. That's their part of the system. The "President" can tweet all he likes about the way he wants things done, but it still has to be checked by this group of people who have job to make these determinations. Hooray for checks and balances.
Currently, the legislative branch seems a little caught up in its own tug of war over just how to make laws for judges and courts to inspect. There hasn't been a lot of  law-making going on since this new administration moved into the Oval Office. Could it be that this change-of-pace out-of-the-box mind that found its way into the executive branch has a fundamental lack of  understanding about how things work outside the televised boardroom where it once reigned supreme? We don't call him the
"Supreme President." We do call it the "Supreme  Court."  Seems as thought we put  a pretty high priority on that court system. That's constitutional.
So I sit here, waiting to be called. To be a part of the process that allows for the people to have a say in what happens. Would it be easier if I could pick and choose my time to participate? Sure, but I appreciate the efforts of my government to keep me honest.