Friday, April 28, 2017

To Whom It May Concern

What I got back, some thirty years after the fact, was a photocopy of the original letter I wrote. I wrote it to try and get a young friend of mine into the University of Southern California film school. The original was spit out of a tractor feed printer, and I confess I missed the tiny flanges of paper that used to connect that strip of holes. I remember how I composed it on my mother's computer, on Wordstar, a program I barely understood but I wanted to make this thing look as impossibly impressive and professional as possible. Beyond the technical aspects, I strove to put as much heart and soul into this letter as I could, ensuring my good friend of a safe and prosperous future and a career that would take him places about which we only dared to dream.
My friend didn't make it into USC. I blame the admissions office. I blame Wordstar. I blame myself. The good news is that he doesn't seem to blame me. He ended up at the University of Colorado, the same fine institution that gave me my Creative Writing degree. He graduated from the School of Engineering. Graduated. No real thanks to me, but he kept the letter.
All those years.
When I looked at it again, through the haze of middle age and all the time that has passed, I thought of all the other letters I had written since. Written for friends. Written for people with whom I am friendly. For school. For jobs. For jobs in school. Letters with effusive praise and appreciation, none of which was faked or inflated. I like to tell myself that it was my skill as a wordsmith, working with something other than Wordstar, that made the difference when those who received those letters sat back in their chairs and said, "Well, after reading this I can't see how we could imagine a more qualified candidate."
Sometimes I wrote these letters begrudgingly, sending a colleague off on a new track or a path that I might have investigated myself if I weren't so very, very busy.
Writing letters of recommendation.
But mostly I'm happy that I can have an impact on the lives of those around me. I am almost always flattered when the opportunity arises, and I only wish that I could guarantee that my words and the way I string them together would be enough to put the subject of that letter over the top. And my most sincere apologies to those of whom I failed. I hope your life had another twist or turn that my letter from being the bane of your existence.
Thank you for your consideration.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Answering The Bell

When we hear footsteps on the front porch, we await the ringing of the doorbell. This past weekend, in the middle of the night, we weren't awake to hear those footsteps. The first sound of the bell made my wife and I imagine there had been some sort of power outage, and that wink of electricity had set off our mild security system. Then it rang again. This was really someone on the porch.
I rose from the bed, and my wife called after me, "Make sure you use the chain."
I assured her that I would, but first I was going to put on my robe. That would give me the warmth I needed as well as giving me the extra few seconds to clear my head for this operation. When I got to the door, however, my wife was already there.
"Who is it?" she called through the closed door. She wasn't using the chain.
I stopped and listened along with her. The voice on the other side let us know that it was the teenager from down the street. He had been on our porch a few times recently, looking for a calm place in the storm of adolescence. This was a change from years past when he was running an errand for his mother who needed to borrow a cup or sugar of a couple eggs. Or maybe he was just out walking his dog and stopped by to see if our son was home. And if our son, impossibly older by five years, wanted to play.
On this late night, he wasn't there to play. He needed a place to rest. He had been out on the streets for hours, locked out of his house. Now with the door opened to receive our neighbor my wife and I kept our concerns to ourselves, even though we had so many questions. Where was his mother? Why didn't he use his key? Was there someone we should be calling? Where had he been for all those hours that preceded midnight?
He didn't want to talk much. He looked as tired as we felt, and so my wife set about making up the bed in the back room for him. When she came back, I went and brought back a glass of grape juice that seemed like a caring gesture. That's when my wife texted his mother.
No response.
There was little more to discuss. It was time for sleep, and the details would be sorted out in the morning.
In the morning there was a note on the bed. Two actually. One was the draft of the more legible one that thanked us for the place to rest and that he didn't want to wake us. Again. He had gone out the back door to a friend's house once the sun was up.
Shortly after that, we got a call from his mother, filling in the blanks. The trouble he was in. The challenges she had been having. The challenges he had been having. The challenges of a single mother and her son. She thanked us for the safe place we gave her son.
And we wonder if that bell will ring again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Indefensible

Out on the playground, I deal with a lot of "he said, she said." There are plenty of instances in which, as I approach another youngster with their sobbing accuser close behind me, that the kid will loudly announce "I didn't do nothin'." And so the negotiation begins.
"He hit me," sobs the sobber.
"No I didn't!" screeches the accused.
"Yes you did!" screeches the sobber.
"No I didn't!" sobs the accused.
And so it went, once upon a time. Over the past few years I have modified this process in the interest of saving time and energy. It doesn't take an expert in child behavior and psychology to determine just how real the tears are. Lower lip out by itself without any tear duct production? Runny nose to complement real tears? It's observable. And so is the relative guilt of the alleged assailant. Which is why I ask this question: "What does this kid have to gain by making something like this up?" They want justice, as it is dispensed on the playground.
In the grown-up world, when someone gets hit, or insulted, or demeaned, or harassed, they don't have a teacher in an orange vest to go to. They go to the police. Or the courts. Or the media. The media is where I found Ronald Reagan's son, Michael, sobbing the following: "If women are going to wear low cut dresses that show cleavage don't be harassed when we men look. Or should we sue for sexual arousal?" 
Oh, Michael. I don't think you understand exactly what the problem is. Even more obvious from his more direct defense of Bill O'Reilly: "Hot Chocolate used to be a compliment on your looks today it is called sexual harassment." 
When kids hit their little counterparts on the playground, they will invariably defend their actions by telling me that they were "just playing." Like that punch in the stomach was a compliment. Or those tawdry comments in the workplace. There doesn't need to be a negotiation here. There shouldn't be a negotiation. It's not a negotiation. It's not right to hurt other people.
End of conversation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Low Hanging Fruit

When "President" Trump was elected, the nominal silver lining was that the gift was for comedians. Such a wealth of material. Bankrupt billionaire, reality TV star and former USFL team owner becomes leader of the Free World. Hysterical, right. It is the very epitome of the old saying, "This stuff writes itself."
Which turns out to be the problem. These days it hardly feels like work to make fun of the idiocy that spews forth from Washington. It doesn't take a David Frye or Key and Peele's Anger Translator to poke fun at the Oval Office goings-on. For several minutes the other day, I sat and stared at the picture of Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, and Sarah Palin hanging around the desk of the aforementioned "President." I was trying to come up with a joke to go along with the photo. Some sort of amusing caption that would set the scene in some sort of comedic way. Providentially, there was no way to move past the inherent humor of the scene. It was made that way.
And this kind of silliness is taking place every single day.
The "President" appoints his millionaire buddies to cabinet positions and invites his nutty model daughter and his son-in-law the real estate guy to become his closest advisers. The laughter ensues. The yuks continue as the "President" threatens the nut-job running North Korea with "an armada" that just  happens to be heading  the wrong way. Oh stop! You're killing me!
Add to this the adventures of his pinhead sons and you have some comic relief from all the comedy. Like how Donald Junior decided to go help out the campaign of a Republican congressional candidate in Montana, and go on a prairie dog hunt with him. I promise you that I am not making this up. This is a real thing that happened and requires absolutely no additional information to make it funny.
Or incredibly sad.
In the past few months, people have been saying how Saturday Night Live has really found its edge again. Brilliant writing? Pitch-perfect acting? Accurate transcription. Comedy doesn't need us anymore. All we need to do is point. And laugh.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Alternative Fractals

It's not really a surprise when things turn out the way you might expect them to happen. That's the kind of thing we call "obvious." Still, there is a whole line of thought that is dedicated to expecting the unexpected: Chaos Theory. This may go a long way toward explaining such anomalies as The Mystery Spot, where gravity is all askew. And then there's the Butterfly Effect, in which a butterfly can flap its wings in San Juan, Puerto Rico and a polar bear at the Arctic Circle looks up and says, "Did somebody just open the door?"
Or something like that. 
These days, if you're looking for Chaos, search no further than Berkeley, California. Gravity tends to work pretty much the way you might expect it, but there are plenty of other phenomena that periodically defy explanation. Like why did the University of California invited conservative fussbudget Milo Yiannopoulous to speak on campus last January. As one of the vortex points of left wing thought, and fiercely proud of it, it makes no real sense. Unless the predicted outcome of a night of burning dumpsters and broken windows was the wish of organizers in anticipation of the event. What would happen if we put the porcupine in charge of the balloon factory? It could be that the whole process was set up as an experiment to see if suddenly up was down and left was right and everything we know is wrong. That would go a long way toward proving Chaos Theory. 
Which may explain why Trump supporters scheduled a rally last week in downtown Berkeley. Not for the first time. The natural consequence being, of course, that the balloons didn't last very long. Over the past few months, disorder has become a regular state of being there. "What would happen if" seems to be the way things get planned. What would happen if we dropped conservative meanie Ann Coulter into this fray? We can probably guess by now, but maybe we won't need it to be experimentally proved. The city and university have agreed that this might not be the right time for such a test of the emergency response teams. 
But did that stop the chaos wheel from turning in its barely predictable manner? Nope. Ms. Coulter has told the Campus Republicans to expect her on Thursday as planned. "I feel like the Constitution is important, and that taxpayer-supported universities should not be using public funds to violate American citizens’ constitutional rights." It's a free speech thing, don'tcha know. She told her hosts "to  spare no expense in renting my speaking venue - part of my legal damages." Who knows what will happen on Thursday? Perhaps voices from both sides will be heard and respected. Perhaps there will be a peaceful gathering with an exchange of ideas that will lead to more understanding and an eventual common ground that can be established. 
Or perhaps there will just be civil unrest of some sort. You never know. 
Or do we?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sex Sells, Sexual Harassment Does Not

The king is dead. Long live the king. The king of "the no-spin zone" was fired after weeks, or years, of speculation. How many complaints? How many women would have to come forward to say that they had unwanted advances and comments lobbed at them by the king? How many complaints needed to be lodged? The bottom line, one might expect was human decency.
Or cash money.
Since 2004, Fox News has paid out more than thirteen million dollars in settlements to the victims of Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment. I'll just go ahead and presume guilt because I am not an officer of the court. Well, unless you count the court of public opinion, for which I consider myself judge, jury and elocutionist. Line up to take your swings at Mister O'Reilly's legacy now, since he could be creeping back into the public eye at any minute. Within hours of the announcement that Bill was being let go by the network that supported him and his vitriol after twenty-one years, speculation about where he might pop up again, Back to CBS? Back to ABC? How about some other alt right outlet looking for some star power?
Considering the way big advertisers leaped off the O'Reilly boat starting at the beginning of April, it's hard to imagine that anyone would want to take on a big salary that wouldn't guarantee big revenues to cover that big paycheck. It is not what most would consider to be a good investment. At this moment, there are those who are lauding Bill's former employer for "doing the right thing." Rupert Murdoch never made a decision that was driven by public sentiment. He's a bottom line guy. How else could the way the Simpsons toss shade at their corporate bedfellows on such a regular basis without some sort of purge or creative crackdown? Homer and his little yellow family make money. They have big name advertisers. They may make meals out of the hand that feeds them, but if their Fox handlers can continue to pay for prosthetic limbs, keep it coming.
By contrast, the weasels at Fox (forgive the mixed metaphor) found themselves standing over the trap holding their fallen star and they gnawed his leg off to free him. Missing that foot may make it harder to keep from spinning, but my guess is that he will always drift to the right.
For now, enjoy turning on your television just a little more, but keep an eye out for The Bill Show, sponsored by Jello.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In The Warm California Sun

There has been, in the twenty-five years since I moved here, a number of cries for California to secede from the Union. This secessionist talk has roots that reach back as far as the nineteenth century, before the left coast had even become a state or three. All of the things that make the north, south and central regions unique have been held up as reasons to break the state up into pieces are also the things that give it such formidable potential if it were to hang together as its very own republic. A peek at the words below that big bear on the flag lets you know that the Golden State is only a bit of legislation away from becoming its own nation.
Recently, there has even been a clever name attached to this movement: Calexit. Catchy, but perhaps a little too reminiscent of Caltrans, which also has its own challenge keeping their organization distinct from other trans groups. This is 2017, after all. Which also means that the potential for one of the world's largest economies with a population larger than many countries to skip off on their own as real and true.
Could this really happen? If the dark blue on the map shown during all those discussions of red and blue states can be believed, California, along with Oregon and Washington, could form their own coastal coalition and make their way into becoming the next pot-smoking bleeding heart tech savvy region on the planet. We could all become the Netherlands of the Pacific. We could lead the way in preparing for the first annual Hunger Games. Except in that vision of the future, we would all be underwater.
Okay, so maybe there are a couple other things working against this plan. Like the big red swaths that show up on closer examination of the deep blue California. That and the fact that the most recent leader of this exodus, Louis Marinelli, has decided to chuck it all and move to Russia.  Dosvedanya, Lou. Along with his departure, the revelation that a good deal of the funding and support for the Yes California campaign comes from Russia, this makes all this Red and Blue talk even more confusing. So, for now we'll stay put. We're not going anywhere. Physically, anyway.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Persona

Once you crawl way out on a limb, and you realize the mountain lion is still pursuing you up the tree, what other choices do you have but to saw of the limb? Well, you could try reasoning with the mountain lion. "Sorry I stumbled into your territory, I apologize for bringing my human-stink within the range of your most excellent senses." Or you could do what Alex Jones did and ask your lawyer to convince the mountain lion that you aren't really a human after all. You're a performance artist pretending to be a human. 
Problem solved. 
In case you missed it, Mister Jones is currently in the midst of a raging custody battle with this estranged wife Kelly over their three children. It is Ms. Jones (not to be confused with "Mother Jones") contention that the on-air rants of her strange and estranged husband are evidence of Alex not being a "stable father." Stable. Rhymes with table. Something upon which you could set things without fear that they would end up on the floor or in therapy for a dozen years. I confess that until this story came to light, I had not considered the collateral damage of being the wife or offspring of such a persona. "Daddy's going to work now. If you hear me on the radio making stuff up about those poor little kids in Connecticut being shot, remember: It's just daddy's job." 
We can only hope that he waited for the spittle to dry before he kissed them goodnight. 
Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, attorney Randall Wilhite said that using his client's on-air persona to judge him as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in Batman. I don't know about you, but if I was arguing the case against Jack, I might bring up his choice of roles, though I might have started with Jack Torrance in The Shining
So Alex Jones is a performance artist. Does this mean we can all stop taking him so seriously? I'm okay with that. Does that also mean that Stephen Colbert can sue him?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Our Best Minds

Why don't people like scientists? Because they never bring you any good news. The polar ice caps are melting. You can get cancer from just about everything. There is no such thing as Big Foot. Okay, that last one may turn out to be good news if you happen to to harbor fears of being attacked by Sasquatch, but mostly it really isn't what we want to hear. Please don't call us until you find the secret to molecular transport or a cure for the common cold. 
Did they listen? No. They're scientists. They're far too busy discovering things and blabbing about them as if we could all use this worrisome knowledge. Like this group out of Princeton who recently published a study in Science magazine, they found out that if people teach machines how to be human, then they end up acting like humans. Pretty cool so far, right? This Artificial Intelligence uses big batches of words and analyzes them along with their uses in all kinds of places, including Al Gore's Internet. The AI then sets about making connections to words and phrases and assigning meaning to them that helps generate "human" responses. A simple example? “Flower” is more likely to be associated with “pleasant” than “weapon” is. That, of course, makes perfect sense. What makes less sense is how the trained AI also had a habit of associating typically Caucasian-sounding names with other things that it considered to be “pleasant,” rather than African-American names. The AI also shied away from pairing female pronouns with mathematics, and instead often associated them with artistic terms. 
Whoops. The AI seems to be racist and sexist. This opens a whole case of worm cans, all of which threaten to wriggle out onto the floor and make the future as big a mess as our present. Or worse. The good news? This study may go a long way to explain the temperament of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe we should send some scientists over to his house for a couple weeks to keep an eye on him. Maybe this will help them on some of those other worries they have us going on about. Or maybe they just discovered this to make us fret some more. Maybe Skynet is too self-aware. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Elementary

For most of my life, I didn't really have a problem imagining that there were people who were smarter than me. I gave my parents the  benefit of this assumption, and my older brother. My teachers were all superior intellects and I needed only to wait for their wisdom to trickle down to me. If I sat in my seat and  paid attention. I've always been pretty good at respecting authority, and if someone was recognized as an expert, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
It was long about the time I was in high school that I had my first real confrontation with how that reality might not be exactly the one in which I would grow old. My math teacher took me out into the hallway and threatened to fail me if I didn't cool my roll in his class. I was surprised to see that I was somehow perceived as a threat to his authority. Me? Was I more clever than this high school instructor of Elementary Functions?
Troubled by this development, I dropped his  class and enrolled in Selected Topics In Math, a course that would fill my credits and get me somewhere safe and dull.
It was this morning when I woke up to the notion that I am smarter than our "President." My problem is that I don't have another country in which I can simply drop into as I wait out the insufferable stupidity that continues to wreak havoc on our nation and planet. A year ago, I was comforted by the idea that the man in charge of the United States was much smarter than I am. He was surrounded  by a group of individuals who could easily teach me a thing or two about governance. Even back in the days of George W., there was the evil genius known as Dick "Dick" Cheney to hang all that cleverness on. Not the guy we have in there now.
On Easter morning, he greeted us tweetly with "I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?" and "Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!" The election is over, now begins the backlash. The guy whose mind works one hundred forty characters at a time is confounded by the resistance to his tiny-brained responses to the world around him. The rallies across the country were made up of Americans who cannot reconcile what is happening to them and those around them. They aren't being paid. They are, ironically enough, being  stirred up by the very social media he tends to favor himself. 
Could it be that the "small group" of protesters are better at organizing than the "President?" Almost certainly. Is our "President" good at estimating the size of a crowd? Almost certainly not. I wonder how he'd fare on an Elementary Functions exam. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The List

After a quarter of a century, you might not guess that  there are still pieces of the world to which my wife is still unaware. That's where I come in. As her husband, it is my responsibility to fill in the blanks. This is especially true with movies. She has never seen Lawrence of Arabia. For example. There are others, of course.
We have a list. It is the "I Can't Believe You Haven't Seen" List. Over the years this list has fluctuated. It has diminished when we lurch past a title on cable TV, or something pops up on demand. This is how we wile away the hours in our empty nest. When we were parents of a boy who relied on us to have his animated film needs, and later as chaperones to the latest installment of the Fast and Furious saga. There were not a lot of inroads made during this period. The gaps that we filled were those our son needed filled. "Dad! Luke blew up the Death Star!" It was a revelation. Meanwhile, the "I Can't Believe You Haven't Seen List" grew.
A week ago, after my wife and I had spent a few days helping our son move into the house that he will call home for the length of his lease, we returned to the place that he used to call home and we found ourselves talking about "Un Chien Andalou." The surreal collaboration between Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel was on the list, and it was available on YouTube. With twenty-one minutes and twenty-seven seconds to spare, we dialed it up.
"So that is what all the fuss is about," my wife said when it was all over. We spent a few more minutes reflecting on the symbolism and the juxtapositions and other artsy things that one does after watching "Un Chien Andalou." Cross that one off.
A few days later, a friend of mine sent me an email alert that Turner Classic Movies was going to broadcast "Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine." I set the DVR. This was a title that was not on the list, but it was a film that had somehow escaped my wife's viewing from the time she was born until just about now. Now she has seen Dwayne Hickman and Frankie Avalon team up to unravel Vincent Price's plan for world domination from the makers of all those Beach Blanket movies. That problem is solved.
Now we need to cobble together three and a half hours for Lawrence. And then everything else on the list.

Monday, April 17, 2017

That Blowed Up Real Good

That sound we all thought might be saber-rattling could be loose marbles in the head of our "President." I am hip enough to the ways of the world to know that the "Mother of All Bombs" that was unleashed by U.S. forces on a remote portion of Afghanistan was not created in a Trump Industries lab. It has been in development and under wraps for a decade or so, waiting for the perfect time and place to set it off. The non-nuclear 21,600-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) "targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters use to move around freely," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. It should be noted that Secretary Spicer didn't make any equivalencies to Hitler in his statement. Way to keep it real, Sean!
This detonation comes in the wake of last week's launch of a few dozen cruise missiles into what our "President" was reminded by an interviewer was not Iraq but Syria. The attack took place for the "President" over a delicious piece of chocolate cake. Who doesn't like chocolate cake? Who doesn't like cruise missiles? 
Well, the folks at ground zero. The airfield that was bombed in Syria (not Iraq) was heavily damaged, but not enough to keep further attacks from being launched just a couple days later. The fifty-nine cruise missiles killed an estimated eighty-six bad guys. At one thousand pounds per warhead, that's more than a two-for-one ratio. The "MOAB" used in Afghanistan killed a reported thirty-six bad guys. That's just about one and a half bad guys per pound. I'm sure this probably put a damper on whatever dessert our "President" was consuming at the time of that explosion. "Does this Twinkie taste funny to you?"
Then there's that word "target." A bomb that has a blast radius of more than a mile in every direction is not exactly a precision device. The goat herder who strayed with his flock into the kill zone probably would have ended up joining ISIS eventually, so we can just add him to the total carnage and move on.
To where? How about North Korea? "We are sending an armada," says our "President" in between bites of the most delicious cheesecake. 
Yummy. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here

There was a time when you could get legally wasted under the age of twenty-one if you lived in the state of Colorado. Okay? That was the reason for the existence of 3.2 beer. Beer brewed with a lower alcohol content. Beer brewed with a higher intent of getting teenagers to drink. Some referred to this swill as "baby beer," which may have also explained the color and consistency and the graffiti I spotted at an establishment that sold this fluid: "We don't sell beer. We rent it." None of this was enough to keep me from seeking out opportunities to chug the junk. On University Hill in Boulder, Colorado there were half a dozen places that used promotions like "Animal Drown Night" to promote the consumption of 3.2 beer.
It might also have been a byproduct of living just around the corner from a college and down the road from the Coors refinery. Distillery. Whatever. Without a trace of shame, the Board of Regents allowed the facility in which those highly trained and scholarship awarded athletes play basketball The Coors Events Center. I suppose I can appreciate that this was some sort of public service to the student body since all of those bars and restaurants and basketball arenas were within stumbling distance of the dorms and most of the student housing.
But not all of them. One particular night spot that catered to that pre-twenty-one set. It was called "Characters," and the decor favored some of the fern bars of the seventies, with a dance floor sunk in the center of a ring of tables used to hold up the pitchers and glasses that would be drained in attempt to make the interactions between these young people more fluid. The hint we had about the name of the place were the over-sized sepia-toned images of legendary Hollywood stars. It was understood that this was the place where you would go if you didn't feel like hanging around with the punks and goths and borderline personalities that hung out at the New Wave club, Pogo's. The music selection was a sanitized version of the dance hits of the eighties, and if that was the reason you were there, something had gone terribly wrong.
As referenced earlier, the consumption of watery beer was what made it possible for kids to meet kids. As the evening wore on, boys and girls of a certain age were pairing off and making their way back to whatever destination and future awaited them. Long or short term. I wish I could tell you that I knew couples who are currently happily married after meeting over a pitcher of Coors Light at Characters when they were freshmen. I could tell you stories about singles who were couples for a moment or two and are now currently married. To other people. I could tell you stories about the hours I sat on a stool in that place, waiting for my courage to be summoned. And then the lights came up, along with that announcement: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." I went home. Drunk and alone. What was so great about 3.2 beer again?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Crossfire

It's been a while since I felt compelled to sit down and write about yet another mass shooting. Not that they haven't been occurring straight along. But with trucks ramming into crowds and "President" Trump's spokesdolt insisting that Hitler never used chemical weapons, I regret that these incidents have been pushed off my front page. 
Which is unfortunate. Not because those acts of rage and terror are indistinguishable. It simply becomes difficult if not impossible to find a way to comment on all the rage and terror that exists in our world currently. Which is sad, since every innocent victim deserves to be mourned. Every bizarre miscarriage of our justice system deserves to be pointed out and corrected. “We can no longer call events like this ‘unimaginable,’ because they happen with alarming frequency.” Those are the words of Gabby Giffords, describing the shooting of a teacher and two students in a San Bernadino, California classroom. “Elementary school classrooms should be safe places, full of kindness — never horror,” Giffords said.
Horror is the best way to describe guns and school. As we creep ever closer to the anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, we look back at eighteen years of angry debate over how to keep kids from getting killed at school. There are still plenty of folks who would like us to arm the adults in every school to turn back any attack. These are the ones who roll their eyes at the very notion of a "gun free zone." 
What's that? 
In America, I can understand the cynical viewpoint that insists that there is and should not be a gun free zone. Guns are everywhere, and bad guys use them. The steady diet of good guys taking care of bad guys with mutually applied gunfire on TV and movies make it easy to imagine how such a heroic stand might be made. If only Karen Elaine Smith had been able to produce her concealed handgun when her estranged husband entered her classroom and popped a cap in him before he was able to carry out the murder part of his murder-suicide plan. Feel free at this moment to come up with a tough, tossed off line for Ms. Smith to muter as she blows the smoke from her barrel. 
I'm too busy imagining what eight year old Jonathan Martinez was thinking just before he was shot. Then I try to imagine how the three people who died and the other little boy who was critically wounded wouldn't have been many more if there had been some sort of pistol-packing crossfire. And sadly, it isn't "unimaginable." 

Friday, April 14, 2017

With Friends Like These...

You can't really make stuff like this up: The jingle encourages to "Fly the friendly skies of United." It's right there in the company's name: United. A people united shall not be defeated. That's not theirs. It comes from another line of inquiry. Still, you would expect more of a "People's Airline" from this bunch, wouldn't you?
A United flight from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked, and as become the custom, volunteers were asked to give up their seats to accommodate those who absolutely positively had to get on that particular flight. No takers. The friendly folks at United upped their cash award to eight hundred dollars from four hundred along with food and lodging for the night in the City of the Big Shoulders. No takers.
At this point, I feel compelled to rehash the story my wife likes to tell about the time she and her mother and brothers went on a bike tour of Europe. On their way home, they were desperately low on cash, and so when the call went up to negotiate for their overbooked seats, they happily gave theirs up for the money. This experience repeated itself the next day when they went back to the airport. When they finally made their way back to the United States, they were fat and happy with an extra couple days on their adventure with something more than their carry-ons to carry off. This was the happy version.
Back in Chicago, things did not go as well. A man who claimed to be a doctor on his way home to care for his patients was forcibly removed from the flight. By police who were called to the terminal. Forcibly. Decidedly not friendly.
Now we can assume that the cash award of eight hundred dollars will be exceeded once a settlement is made with the gentleman who was carried off the plane. Feel free at this moment to discuss emergency evacuation procedures on your next flight. And keep this in mind: After he had been dragged off by police, the man apparently tried to get back on the plane. This is a guy who takes his Hippocratic Oath very seriously. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that United Airlines has the same kind of thing in place for their treatment of passengers. The flight was delayed still further when customers were asked to deplane while the blood was cleaned up from the scuffle. Wasn't that friendly?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Popped Art

Kendall Jenner is not happy. Of course there are plenty of reasons for her to be unhappy. One that springs to my mind is her family's inability to do anything in private. When I was nineteen, that would have made me crazy. But maybe growing up in that fish-eye lens that is reality TV eventually wears down that schism between real life and whatever it is that they are leading. Perhaps she is irritated about all the coverage that Ivanka Trump is getting these days. She could work in the White House, I'll bet. Or maybe she should have had somebody who wasn't connected with the wacko world that is Jenner/Kardashian/etc. look over the shooting script for the Pepsi ad that dropped with a thud on the world a week ago. "Hey, Kendall. This is nice and all, but there will be other projects." Give the girl a chance, right? Nope. Now she is the face that united Al Gore's Internet. No. Body. Liked. It. Even my wife, who tries to find the best of everything in everyone, ultimately didn't find anything nice to say. Kendall Jenner saves the world with a Pepsi became a meme in a matter of seconds, and when Pepsico bailed on their very expensive advertisement, no one was surprised. Except maybe Kendall.
“Kendall is still not happy about the controversy,” said a family spokesdroid. “She plans on laying low until things calm down. She still talks about it a lot and has support from her family. She is spending a quiet weekend with her family.”
Saturday Night Live did not let that happen, since they took the opportunity to poke large fun at the mess that was made. Quiet weekend disrupted. No doubt Kendall was even more unhappy. The kind of crass commercialism that brought us Don Draper sitting in a lotus position at Esalen dreaming up a Coke ad was the best way for us to remember just what a twisted rail Don really was. I'd like to buy the world a Coke. I'd like to stop global warming with a Pepsi, but it ain't happening. Soda pop is not the milk of human kindness. They won't end wars anywhere outside of a sound stage. 
I'm sorry Kendall. You're just going to have to stay unhappy for a couple more days. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Gorsuch Maru

Remember a week ago, when we were all worried about the Republicans going nuclear? It makes complete and total sense, since the use of atomic weapons by any group or body seems indefensible. Ask the folks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oh, wait. You can't because they were vaporized.
Or maybe this "going nuclear" is hyperbole. You  remember hyperbole, don't you? It's the stuff and nonsense of the Trump "presidency." Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally are the junk that flops around on Twitter and press conferences and twenty-four hour news networks. As it turns out, there were no nuclear weapons used in the Senate last week. There was a confirmation of Supreme Court Justice, and then everyone scattered for a two week vacation. Job well done. Done, anyway. And  that whole "nuclear option?" That was about how that job got done. The Republican leadership chose to change the rules about how Supreme Court Justices are appointed. After two hundred thirty years of doing things a certain way, things were not necessarily going the Republican's way and so they decided to change that way. No more consensus building. No more waiting around for that tired old filibuster. Not enough votes? Change the rules.
This isn't nuclear. This is the kobayashi maru. It's not science. It's not history. It's science fiction. Captain James T. Kirk didn't like the way things turned out in the academy's no-win scenario, so he changed the scenario. Mitch McConnell didn't like the way things were going, so he changed the scenario. No more two-thirds. Just  a straight majority. 
Boom. Nothing changed on an atomic level. It changed on a very large scale. Lives will most definitely be changed by this event. It's the Supreme Court, after all. Decisions will be made. Constitutional type decisions. If, for example, the "President" wanted to commit a war someplace and didn't have the congressional support or permission he needed, having a Supreme Court around that would help out. In a pinch. 
Or maybe it's already happening. Nuclear seems to be a way that things get done these days. If you aren't happy about it, you have an option. It's not nuclear, but it's pretty radical. It's called a participatory democracy. Participate. For all of our sakes. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

This One's For John

In high school, it was clear that I had a band director, not a teacher. That was a different experience than the one I had in junior high. The man who brought me through Cadet Band as a seventh grader and then two years of Concert Band was most definitely a teacher. I can  recognize this now because I am a teacher.
In some ways the way John Whitehurst rode herd on that group of seventh graders reminds me of the way an elementary school teacher copes with a room full of kids with such a  wide array of abilities and talents. For instance, I showed up in the auditorium on that first day with three months of weekly lessons on a sousaphone. Most of my counterparts had been playing together in elementary school orchestras or bands in addition to all that  practicing they had been doing in advance. Not all of them, of course. I was ahead of a couple of the kids in the room. They were the ones who did share something with me: the desire to be part of something bigger. We wanted to be in a band. I had seen how much fun my older brother had and all the friends he'd made in band and I wanted some of that. It did not occur to me that my ability of play a musical instrument might stand in the way. I had, as both of my brothers did, years of  piano lessons and that urge to be part of something bigger: a band. My band director, my teacher, didn't have a sousaphone on hand so he handed me the next best thing. He wanted me to play a baritone. Looking back, I can see how he might have felt that it would be an easy enough switch. Sousaphone was low brass. Baritone was low brass. How hard could that be? He wasn't asking me to play clarinet. He wasn't asking for me to take up the marimba. From where I was sitting, in the back row with the trombones and  the other baritone player, he might as well have been asking me to play something designed by Dr. Seuss. I could read music, I understood the idea behind the music, I could hear the music in my head. Making it come out of a baritone wasn't something I was equipped to do. Not at all. I was twelve.
Mister Whitehurst figured that out. Not initially, but in time. He made a few calls. He got me a sousaphone. We had a spare baritone in case someone else wanted to play it. I was the sousaphone player in Cadet Band. I wasn't great, but I was comfortable. I never got great, but I got better. I played sousaphone in Concert Band in eighth and ninth grade. When I moved on to high school, and when my high school band director asked if I could  play trombone  in Stage Band, I said "Sure."
Thank you, John. Mister Whitehurst.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mister Warmth

My wife said, "Don Rickles is the first comedian that I ever hated." This is significant since, to paraphrase Denis Leary, the list of things she hates are Mean People. End of list. Also significant since Denis Leary is one of the comedians my wife adores, and who owes his career to the trailblazing that Mister Rickles did decades in advance. Once you get the joke, as my wife eventually did, that Don Rickles was the id of stand up comedy, then it becomes funny. Hysterical even. Like a roller coaster ride built to take you to the brink of awful only to pull you back on the track with a "I kid..." Just before another plunge into eye-rolling bitter sarcasm. Not for the faint of heart or faint of humor.
My wife grew to love and respect Don Rickles. Some might go so far as to suggest that we named our first born son after him. They would be wrong, but they could suggest that. She did grow to love the spud incarnation of Mister Rickles. His Mr. Potato Head was a well-known friend in our house, My son learned to love Don Rickles without ever having to hate him.
I never hated Don Rickles. He made me very nervous, but I never hated him. I could see from my spot on the living room floor that this was a guy who made lots of other people laugh. Usually at their own expense. And they loved him for it. He was the guy who got to make fun of Bob Hope. Nobody made fun of Bob Hope. Don Rickles did. He applied the same take-no-prisoners affect to Bob Hope that he took to the guy who happened to be in the front row, nodding his head. He was merciless. He was cruel.
And this was a persona. Years later, when I discovered that he and Bob Newhart were best friends, and went on lavish vacations together with their wives, it became clear that this was an act. Someone as kind and gentle as Bob Newhart could have Don Rickles for a best friend? And Bob wasn't married to Suzanne Pleshette? It was all part of show business, and Don Rickles was right in the heart of that machine. Odd now, of course, using the word "heart" in a description of Don, but that's the reality behind the persona.
Spread the love for the dear departed hockey puck. He stomped on the Terra and chewed it up too. Aloha, Mister Warmth.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Price Of Doing Business

Some things don't come as a surprise or a shock. Barbecue sauce, for example, is really bad for your teeth because of all the sugar it contains. There was a guy named Sylvester Graham who invented graham crackers. Corporal punishment is still permitted in nineteen of our fifty states. Money you found on the street is taxable income. These aren't the kind of things that would cause someone to change the way they live their life, but rather they are realities could cause me to reconsider picking up that next penny I find on the sidewalk.
Add to this list: Fox News is facing another round of sexual harassment lawsuits. The lack of audible gasps at that last sentence is all the proof I need to suggest that harassment is pretty much business as usual at the home of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Sean is far too busy harassing most of the civilized world with his whirlwind blather to be caught up in anything as tawdry as poking, pinching, prodding or suggesting any of those things to his Foxmates, but he is most surely not above defending the slobbering beasts who have offices in the same building. A lot of it took place in the Twittersphere, so you may have missed it. Last summer while Roger "The Hut" Ailes was being assailed by his female employees, Sean tweeted, "Brian talk to the hundreds of woman at Fox that I talked to this week both on air and off. They say it all BS." In reply to those who questioned his boss's conduct. This came just after he helpfully supplied us all with a list of women who claimed to have been harassed/assaulted by Bill Clinton. Exactly how this shows up as a defense for Roger Ailes is not fundamentally clear, but no one wants to be told that the glass house in which they are living could use a little less hurling of stones.
Which brings us to Mister O'Reilly. Twenty million dollars has already been paid to former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson to keep all those lurid details about office encounters from becoming more public. Thirteen million more dollars have been spent to silence the claims of five more women who insist they were the the objects of Bill O'Reilly's desires. Desires they did not share or care to experience. Here comes yet another, Doctor Wendy Walsh, who spilled the beans at a press conference this past Monday. In a world where "he said, she said" is a game that most of us would rather not play, it becomes a little more clear when it turns out to be "she said and she said and she said and she said and she said," and so on.
It starts to sound a lot like the kind of environment where such things are simply part of the culture. And not the kind of culture where you feel smarter and better for having experienced it. The kind of culture they make by sticking a swab in the back of your throat and make you gag just a little bit.
Or a lot.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

In House Support

It is an interesting time. Not just in the hurly burly world of politics and foreign affairs, but here on the home front. My son is preparing to move into his first house. His house. Not  his parents'. It is in most practical applications a similar operation to the one that got him moved into his freshman dorm. Or the on-campus apartment into which he moved back in September. The question of his being emotionally prepared for this leap is no longer on the table. This is somewhat true for his mother and me, but we still find ourselves sitting around the kitchen table, or nearly around since two of us  can't really go around, wondering about how this story continues to grow.
I have spent the last week unraveling the story of my own meandering departure from my parents' home. I lingered longer than a lot of my friends, that was certain. The "gap year" I took after I bailed out of what would have been my freshman year in Santa Fe turned into its own learning experience called "working at Arby's." I can't be sure if it was planned or not, but my mom and dad weren't going to make it easy for me to slink back into my room in the basement. I had to get a job, and that job gave me the scent of what might  be out there as an adult. The relationship with my high school girlfriend was strained by the lack of a storybook ending. I just hung around, and in between shifts at the fast food restaurant, I clung desperately to that thing that I thought was going to be my salvation.
That's not how it  turned out.
I did make a mini-career out of Arby's. I did hold onto that girl until I went away to school the following year, but by then, the sweet story that would have been about enduring love had already been strained to the breaking point. It was my sophomore year, or my second year since those terms don't easily conform to my six year college career, when I moved back to my home town and into an apartment off campus. The habits I had  acquired as a member of the Arby's crew and the opportunities available in a freshman dorm had already done their work. I was in college to learn, but not always what was being taught in the classroom and lecture hall. I was generating my own misspent youth.
So here  I am, some thirty-plus years  later, looking at my son piecing together his own version of growing up. I think of the parties I threw in that first apartment, with the "Bon Voyage" banner that became our decoration for all occasions. I imagine there will be similar debauchery taking place in the living room and front lawn of the house my son is renting. We share enough for me to imagine that he will be going to bed at nine o'clock and rising early to head over to the library to study. He  might get up at nine. He might  go to the library, but I know what this first house is for. It is a learning experience. The good news is that my son seems to be a quicker study than  his old man.

Friday, April 07, 2017

What? Really?

“There’s a warming trend — the climate is changing,” Scott Pruitt, recently installed head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And human activity contributes to that change in some measure. The real issue is how much we contribute to it.” This revelation comes a day after his boss, "President" Trump, rolled back much of the protections put in place by President Obama. Here are some more observations that may not have been painfully obvious enough for the "President" and his minions to comprehend as yet:
If you were to walk around the earth, your head would travel a significant distance farther than your feet.
Sucking on hard candies is just you drinking your flavored spit.
You go to college to pay for college.
You never laugh way too hard at something. You always laugh the exact amount of how you think how funny something is.
"Practice" seems like a terrible name for a health or legal establishment.
There are more nipples in the world than people.
Someone coined the term "to coin a term."
If you’re allergic to pollen, you’re allergic to plant sperm.
Strictly speaking, nothing is on fire. fire is on things.
Superman is an alien that sexually identifies as a white human male from the United States.
We admire hair when it's on someone's head but the second a piece of it is no longer attached to a head it becomes gross.
"Knight has more silent letters than voiced letters, but all the letters in "ninja" have a sound.
Abbreviate Neil Armstrong’s name as Neil A. and then say it backwards.
Because the earth rotates, and revolves around the sun, and the sun moves around the center of our galaxy, which moves through space itself, you will never be in the same place twice. Ever.
The word "natural" is artificial.
In 2020, it’s going to be 4/20 for an entire month.
The lottery is kind of like a tax for being stupid.
And you can bet that if there was a "President" who would institute a National Lottery, it would be the Orangutan in Chief. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

"I Think It Would Be Fun To Run A Newspaper"

Jared Kushner: an American real estate investor and developer, publisher of the New York Observer. Until very recently, that is. He is the husband of one Ivanka Trump: American businesswoman, socialite, author, and fashion model. Why, in heaven's name, should we be at all concerned about their proximity to their new boss: Big Daddy Trump? Why should we cast anything but a quick glance at the "President's" closest advisors? 
How about this: "A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official. An individual may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a civilian position in an agency if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement has been advocated by a public official, serving in or exercising jurisdiction or control over the agency, who is a relative of the individual." This comes from 5 U.S. Code § 3110 - Employment of relatives; restrictions. If there is any further doubt, consider these definitions: (2) “public official” means an officer (including the President and a Member of Congress), a member of the uniformed service, an employee and any other individual, in whom is vested the authority by law, rule, or regulation, or to whom the authority has been delegated, to appoint, employ, promote, or advance individuals, or to recommend individuals for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement in connection with employment in an agency; and
(3)“relative” means, with respect to a public official, an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister.
I added the bold for emphasis, but otherwise that is the text of the Code of the United States. That's the rule. 
Luckily, the queen of alterna-facts, Kellyanne Conway is here to help us out: “The anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception if you want to work in the West Wing,” Conway noted. “Because the President is able to appoint his own staff.” She continued, “So, of course, this came about to stop family members from serving in the Cabinet. But the President does have discretion to choose his staff of his liking. And so if that actually is true and that legal advice holds, then that will open up a realm of possibilities.”
So, off goes Senior Adviser Jared to Iraq with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and just down the hall from the Oval Office, you'll find Ivanka performing whatever important duties socialite author fashion models perform at the White House. If she gets bored with that, maybe she can run the Navy. But from an advisory position, of course.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Harmony

There is an apocryphal tale about the songwriting partnership that existed between Paul McCartney and John Lennon in which the line Sir Paul came up with was "got to admit it's getting better" was followed immediately by John's "can't get no worse." It was that kind of interplay that made them one collective genius. Two voices. Two minds. Working together to create some of the most beautiful music and unforgettable songs, Lennon and McCartney understood the creative process as a balancing act. Better and worse exist on a continuum that forms a line on which we walk everyday. Most of us, anyway.
There are those who are uncomfortable with words or ideas outside of their own vision. These are the folks who live in what has been lovingly described as an echo chamber. It is where, I confess, I lived for a decade or more. The questions I raised were answered by my own voice. It didn't always come from my mouth, or even my own head. That reaffirming sound was brought to me via my tribe, those around who could project back the world in all the color and detail to which I might have imagined myself. Hope and change was just around the corner, and all we needed to do was be patient and keep listening to the endless loop, the one that kept repeating Hope and Change.
Why wouldn't we believe it? Gay Marriage. The Affordable Care Act. Who cares if Guantanamo Bay stayed open? We got Osama bin Laden. We can go to Cuba. Got to admit that things were getting better.
Until they got much worse. How did that happen?
Maybe I wasn't listening. Maybe I wasn't watching. How could I have missed this?
I wasn't listening. I couldn't hear the harmony. There were other voices out there that were plenty loud, but I had ignored them. They didn't sound like mine. Maybe that's why I ignored them.
And now there is another song being sung. I don't recognize the tune, and I wouldn't sing along even if I knew the words. There is no harmony, currently. It's a big loud band that no one can dance with. Not me, anyway.
Can't get now worse.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Oh Just Quit Already

I didn't really even tap the brakes. I just kept going. Normally it would have been good for at least a couple of days. I might have written a blog about it. I have. But I don't so much anymore. Which is kind of the point. I don't so much anymore.
I don't drink...Wine. Or much else. I stopped, because I did. A lot. Some wine. But mostly beer. I drank a lot of beer. This is what I thought about while my family meandered through the vast wholesale warehouse of Costco. Gallons of mayonnaise. Everything in bulk. You can't buy a little something. You're going to buy a lot. You could buy a lot of beer there. Back in the day, it was a revelation to me that Miller Lite would sell you a case of beer that you could carry out with one hand. It was a briefcase full of booze. Twenty-four cans of beer in one hand, leaving the other one free to put your change away, grab the car keys, and get behind the wheel.
Well, you know the rest.
And the real amazing thing was that I was never arrested. Not once. I was pulled over a couple of times. I was not drinking and driving. I was just driving. After I had many drinks. The officer let me go with a warning. Don't drink and drive.
I suppose that was good advice. At least half of it. I don't drive a lot anymore. I don't drink anymore. Not at all. I stopped. I did that Cold Turkey thing. Now, after all these years of having told people who feign interest in the story, it occurs to me that I did not know why we say "Cold Turkey," but Wikipedia would like me to believe that it has something to do with how long it takes to make a dish like Cold Turkey. Not long. Like not at all.
I just stopped. And the drugs too. Not as big a deal, since my drug of choice was the Miller Lite. It was a package deal. A great big package of Cold Turkey.
Somewhere back in my late twenties I stopped. And people used to ask me, "Do you miss it?" They don't ask me anymore. It doesn't really matter anymore, since I have done a lot of other things aside from the drinking since then: got married, had a kid, started a career. I have quit other things since then too. I miss them.
But I got over it. Now my wife turns to me and asks if we didn't miss the anniversary of my sobriety. I didn't miss it. It's just down below a whole lot of other stuff now. Somewhere under a cold turkey sandwich.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Unified Theory Of Parenting

In a couple of months, my son will turn twenty. Two decades into his life, I think, is a fair time to make a few assertions about his progress. He has yet to discover a unified field theory. He can order a burrito with the smidgen of Spanish that he retained from middle school. At family gatherings when we suggest he favor us with a little tune on the piano, he smirks and shrugs. We have to be kidding, right?
I blame Baby Einstein. Way back before the turn of the century, my wife and I bought their VHS cassette and slapped it in our home video system and plopped our infant son down in front of the television with the expressed purpose of firing synapses. We were certain that lolling around on the floor in front of a flurry of different languages and images and music would generate some sort of uber-child. Japanese? No problem. The Cartesian Coordinate System? It would become the stuff of his dreams. We were priming his brain pump for his eventual entrance to public school, where we were certain that his rapid growth and accelerated learning potential would make him the love of every teacher and the envy of every chagrined classmate.
Well, guess what? Baby Einstein didn't fix him. Maybe we didn't use it enough or in the right way, but I'm pretty sure our disappointments will be mitigated by a big fat lawsuit that will help ameliorate our expectations. That six-figure starting salary that he was going to be making starting just after his seventeenth birthday never came to pass, and I continue to hold down a day job to pay for his college education. Einstein? Please.
Or maybe it has something to do with the hours of Road Runner cartoons we watched together when Baby Einstein wasn't in the VCR. Or the time I left my baby boy sitting in the middle of our bed while I went to take a shower, Bachman Turner Overdrive blaring on the stereo. When I returned, he was still sitting in the same place, head bobbing vigorously to the music.Maybe a little more Mozart would have helped. Or maybe we could have turned off the television and read poetry together.
Or maybe I should take a moment to sing the praises of my son who continues to find his way in this cockamamie world in spite of all his parents' best intentions and hopes. The Road Runner cartoons did their work.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

How History Works

“Thank you for the forum that you have here tonight. When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis. And for no other reason, I was picked up and separated from my family, who was exterminated in Auschwitz. And I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau. I spent five and a half years in concentration camps for one reason and one reason only — because we picked on people — and you as the sheriff, who we elected as sheriff of this county — we did not elect you for sheriff of Washington, D.C. It’s about time you side with the people here. And when this gentleman stands up there and says he doesn’t go after people, he should read today’s [Sacramento] Bee. Because in today’s Bee, the Supreme Court Justice of California objected to ICE coming in and taking people away from the courts. Don’t tell me that this is a lie. You stand up here, Mr. Jones. Don’t forget — history is not on your side.”
These were the words of Bernard Marks at a town hall meeting in Sacramento last Tuesday night. He was addressing Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement  Thomas Homan and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. He was not happy. Nor were many of the attendees of this meeting. For his part, Mister Homan replied, “We don’t arrest people on schools ground, in churches, in hospitals,” said the ICE director. “We will arrest people in courthouses. If there’s a public safety threat in a courthouse, we’ll continue to arrest in a courthouse. However, we don’t go to courthouses looking for victims; we don’t go to courthouses looking for witnesses. As I said at the beginning, we’ve got specific targets, specific location, so it’s a targeted enforcement operation. So when we go to a courthouse — this is the truth — we’re looking for someone that’s been convicted of a crime and has a criminal history, and the courthouse is the last place we go. We’d much rather go to a jail to get him-” before he was cut off by the unruly crowd. That unruly crowd eventually took over the meeting, giving us all a window into the way history works. A people united shall not be defeated. 
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. - Martin Niemöller 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Here's The Pitch

So much of what happens currently in and around Washington D.C. no longer comes as a surprise. Take for example the near daily harangues disguised as "press briefings" offered up by Sean "Spicy Spice" Spicer. American Urban Radio Networks journalist April Ryan asked the press secretary about connections between the Trump administration and Russia. When she pushed for clarification, Spicy told the reporter to “stop shaking your head.” Then he went on: “If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. … I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head, I appreciate it.”
Sean, bubbie, we're all shaking our heads. 
Down the hall, in the office so infrequently used by the current occupant that Fox News chose to make an onscreen alert about it, the "President" is making plans for Opening Day. The ceremonial start to the spring, the first day of baseball and rather than throwing out the first pitch at the Nationals' home opener, Spicy's boss will be somewhere else. A tradition that would have been one hundred seven years old comes to a screeching halt because of a scheduling conflict. The "President" is a busy man, after all. Barack Obama found the time. But we all know what a time-waster he was, and how he spent more time working on his jump shot than his fastball. No stranger to baseball himself, George W. Bush took his front office skills out to the ballgame and tossed the pea over the plate to remind us all what America's past time is. His dad's form might have used a little work, but from a wheelchair he found his way to a stadium to participate. 
I don't expect that Donald "Absolutely No Fun At All" Trump is worried about his sports acumen. I believe that a man who is afraid of stairs should probably avoid situations that might put him in physical danger. Like going outside. Ever. In his attempt to make America great again, he may have lost track of what makes America great right now: Baseball, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet. 
And any sort of discernible sense of humor.