Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is laudable. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is lamentable. Snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat is laughable, but a few of us liberals apparently want to give it a try.
One way to do it is to urge Trump’s Presidential Electors to vote their conscience. Conscience!? Our whole campaign was based on the premise that Trump and his acolytes have no conscience. Why would they be different now, after they’ve won? (Perhaps we want to make them die laughing?)
Even if there might be a few who would forsake the darkness for the light, who’s to say that the call of conscience might not persuade as many Hillary supporters, drawn by the aroma of victory, to cross in the other direction? We liberals may think of ourselves as angels, but we shouldn’t forget that Lucifer was simply an angel who saw an attractive job-opening.
There’s something more serious in this spasm of mindlessness. One of the pillars of our opponents‘ temple is States Rights, a philosophy that, though grounded in the Constitution, has reeked of bigotry, injustice, and violence since the Civil War.
The Electoral College is, in a way, a protector of States Rights, designed originally to keep the Union intact by giving the less populous states of the South greater political weight than their raw popular vote would have warranted. In this election, States Rights states, in the South and beyond, were, by and large, Trump states.
To a liberal, for whom the Federal Government is usually a better guarantor of consistency, fairness and justice than is the theology of States Rights (remember civil rights legislation), it might seem nonsensical to favor the Electoral College over the popular vote. The alternative, however, would radicalize these angry states, drive them further to the right, and into the arms of the Voldemort also known as Texas.
Another good way to discredit our liberal principles would be to support the stated intent of some city and state political leaders not to cooperate with, possibly even to stymie, Federal immigration efforts now that Trump is to be President. It was only a couple years ago that we were blasting Arizona, and the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for interfering in immigration policies which, we argued, were the prerogative of the Federal Government.
Have these policies suddenly devolved to the individual states, each with its own policy and border control? Have liberals become States Righters? Just because there are fundamental moral issues involved doesn’t mean we should change our strategic position that, over the course of time, the Federal Government is the best bet for giving moral principles the force of law.
If you lose the game, you don’t change the rules so that they favor your particular weaknesses. You remedy the weaknesses. The Cubs got a new front office, a new manager, new players, a new attitude. They didn’t pout, at least not for long.
OK, so the Presidency isn’t as important as the World Series. But pretend it is. Otherwise, it could be 108 years before we get back to the White House. That’s a long time to pout.
… and, it seems, He follows it religiously. Otherwise, why would all those players kiss their finger-tips and, gazing beatifically, point toward heaven after a decisive home run or a rally-ending third strike?
You don’t see this in hockey, basketball, football, or soccer, where God must be watching, at least for form’s sake, since He is present in all things.
Perhaps God loves baseball more.
It’s possible. He’d have to be inhuman not to be thrilled by a pitch as fast as a race car; a leap above the outfield wall to pick off a home run; an infielder’s graceful double-play pirouette at second. Why else but for love of The Game would He have created Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Ernie Banks (but not Pete Rose or Alex Rodriguez)?
It seems, too, that God doesn’t simply watch. He intervenes. What’s more, so our worshipful players seem to be saying, He takes sides, blessing the stalwart home run hitter and damning the errant pitcher, even though both are equally His creatures.
How could this be? After all, this is not a case of good vs. evil (unless you’re a Red Sox fan and the Yankees are involved).
Some argue that God isn’t really taking sides. In a perfectly just world, He will, in time, bless the victimized pitcher with a crucial strikeout just as He may make the once-proud home run hitter the victim of this very strikeout. And, since pitcher and hitter are simply parts of a larger game, God assures equity by seeing to it that, at the end of the season, the combined wins of all the teams exactly equal their combined losses. What could be fairer?
Others, however, question this reasoning, asking how, but for His malign intervention, could the Cubs and Indians have gone more than a combined 160 years without winning a World Series? And, though one of them must win the 2016 Series, He still took an unconscionably long time to bend the arc of the universe toward justice!
This brings us to the question whether, beyond individual instances, God favors those players who demonstratively thank Him for His blessing over those who do not. In the long run, do the former hit more home runs or toss more strikeouts than the latter?
Statisticians have investigated and come to a startling conclusion: no matter what the measure (batting average, home run total, pitching wins and losses, earned run average and the like), players who publicly praise Him rank significantly below those who do not.
Interestingly, players in the higher-ranking group include those who credit Him, but privately, and those who credit themselves, even the publicly boastful chest-thumpers.
In other words, God uniquely punishes those who publicly credit Him with their success. If He is just, why would this be so?
Theories abound: God is not pleased to have His obsession with baseball made public; He feels he must counter the assumption that He is biased; He wants to make it clear that, in the 2016 World Series, though He wants justice for both teams, only one of them can escape its sad history.
No one knows for sure, though there is a growing body of opinion that, in those who publicly attribute their personal success to Him, God sees, not modesty, but a kind of juvenile pridefulness (God loves Me best!), and THIS REALLY PISSES HIM OFF!
When you dye your hair steel-grey, as American star swimmer Ryan Lochte did for the 2016 Rio Olympics, people might wonder where you got those big blue eyes and that little tiny mind.
And then there was the sequel: the drunken escapade, the petty vandalism, the robbed-at-gunpoint claim, the proven lie, the non-apology apology, the loss of all those lucrative sponsorships.
It struck me hard. Not that I particularly care about Lochte, but I worry about the American male, and shudder at the renaissance of the idiot-hero that the noteworthy success of a mature, controlled Michael Phelps seemed to have vanquished.
Struck hard, but not without hope and a cunning plan:
Elsewhere in the Olympics, an American woman — Abbey D’Agostino — showed that being a world-class athlete does not exclude being a world-class human being.
You may recall that, in a heat for the 5,000 meter race, D’Agostino was tripped up when the runner in front of her — New Zealander Nikki Hamblin — stumbled. The two stopped to help each other and hugged before they proceeded to the finish, Hamblin across the line uninjured, D’Agostino, hobbling to dead last and collapsing into a wheelchair. They hugged again and, the following day, D’Agostino, in the crowd, cheered her former rival.
D’Agostino could teach Lochte a thing or two (assuming he is teachable). She should focus on hugging, in which, by my unofficial count, our women took 85% of the American team’s golds, more or less mirroring their official count of almost 60% of the actual American gold haul.
You might think that, even with the best teachers, guys simply don’t have the hormonal wherewithal to be gold-medal huggers. You might believe that hugging is the culmination, not the beginning, of grueling, lifelong empathy-training.
You might, but you’d be wrong. Guys, if you’ve ever engaged a friend, or even a rival, in a genuine hug, you know the endorphin rush it produces, one that no manly handshake can ever equal. From hugging can come empathy. Call it reverse-engineering, but it works.
And there’s more than mere emotional gratification in being a gold-medal hugger. There’s also victory. Consider the contrast between the American women’s gold-medal victory, and the men’s humiliating disqualification, in their respective 4×100 meter relays.
Both teams had amazingly gifted athletes, with the best training. The sliver of difference may have been a crucial empathy deficit among the men. I can only speculate, but there clearly was a disconnect between the last two runners that might, if they had been in mental/emotional synch, have been avoided and at least have allowed them to finish the race, and almost certainly win at least the bronze that was stripped from them.
It isn’t ESP and it isn’t magic. Even Ryan Lochte may be teachable. Who better than Abbey D’Agostino to convince him that a hug is better than a shrug?!
After Columbine, I home-schooled. After Virginia Tech, I got my degree on-line. After Aurora, I got my movie fix on TCM. After Clackamas Mall, I relied on Amazon. But, with the killings in Orlando, I reached the end of my tether and, though I grieved, I saw it was time to save myself.
I had to find a new place to live. Not Canada or Australia or Finland. I wouldn’t abandon my beloved country, but I needed a place where I could sleep and eat, read and write, exercise, and occasionally watch hockey games and Seinfeld re-runs, free of guns and the people who love them.
I considered, but rejected, a number of possibilities: a doorman-secured apartment building (comfortable, but all my fellow residents might be armed); the public library (plenty to read, and everybody sleeps there, but even bibliophiles carry concealed weapons); restaurants (plenty to eat, but restaurants are where the Mafia does most of its whacking); hospitals (lots of beds, but with staph infections more dangerous than bullets).
Then it hit me: Airports. Once you’re past security, No Guns, plus lots of restaurants, bookstores, TVs, walking and jogging space (wrong-way on a moving sidewalk makes a great treadmill), and toilets that get cleaned more often than at home. Sleeping and bathing arrangements aren’t five-star, but I figured ingenuity could work things out.
Of course, I’d need ticket-money to get me into Xanadu, but I’d have plenty of dough from selling my house and most other worldly possessions. I decided to start with a cheap, short-hop ticket, Denver to Fargo, figuring I’d simply miss the flight and blend into the crowd at DIA.
It worked for a day, but, at 3:00 am, with no flights arriving or departing, it was pretty obvious that the guy curled up on two seats, with an expired boarding pass, wasn’t waiting for a flight. They escorted me out, politely but firmly.
Back to the Land of Guns, but not for long. Ticket counters were opening up, and I booked a flight to Chicago figuring that the place never shuts down — I’m talking about O’Hare, not the city itself — and that, with a little creativity, I could last for three or four days, then move on to anonymity in other crowded airports like JFK, Atlanta, LAX.
From there, maybe I’ll branch out — Montreal, Sydney, Helsinki. I could see the world, or, at least, the airports of the world. I might even leave my cocoon occasionally. People say those are great cities, and the chance of getting shot is much less than in America. But I wouldn’t stay. I’d come back. Whether at O’Hare or DIA or JFK, my heart will always be in America, preferably without a bullet in it.
In March 2016, an exhibition of selected art works by Denver public school students, displayed in Denver’s municipal building, included a painting that portrays an obviously white policeman, wearing a KKK hood, pointing a gun at a black youngster wearing a hoodie, arms raised. A portion of the Confederate flag, imposed over an American flag, comprises the background.
Some, especially the police, were offended, and the picture was removed, reportedly at the request of the 10th-grade artist herself (she has declined any public comment). Days later, Denver’s mayor, police chief, acting superintendent of schools, and the artist’s school principal met with her. In public comments, they threaded the diplomatic needle, calling the meeting a teachable moment for all involved.
The mayor said there was no intent to censor, but, in calling attention to the public nature of the building and the sensitivities of its government workers, he seemed to suggest that there are circumstances where censorship is justified.
He is right.
In this particular case, public is the key word. The building, where the selected art works were displayed, is not just a public venue, but one devoted to the work of officials who are sworn to promote the public good. However you define the public good, it starts with a commitment to fair, non-biased treatment of one’s constituents — the public.
Officials and private citizens are equal parts of that equation. Fairness and non-bias has to flow from officialdom, but also back to them. A space that facilitates these transactions assumes a symbolism far out of proportion to its pedestrian function. It must be, and must be perceived to be, neutral toward every constituent.
The painting in question undoubtedly speaks to those who feel that African-Americans are victims of police violence. But there are others who feel differently. Imagine a different painting, hung in the same atrium among the other student art works, which portrays an African-American male, wearing something as sinister as a KKK hood, and pointing a gun at a police officer, hands up.
To treat that painting more favorably than our student-artist’s (or vice versa) would be unjust and unwise.
The student had every right to paint what she painted and her school was right in supporting her. The painting had a right to be seen. It’s where it was placed that created the issue. A private setting would have been unimpeachable; displaying it at her public school, perhaps a little more problematic, raising challenging questions about the appearance of bias but also about a school’s responsibility to promote critical thought.
Interestingly, the statement the student was making would never have had the impact it did if no one had objected to where it got displayed. Now, there’s an idea!!
In late-autumn 2015, I received an e-mail from Ammon Bundy, asking if The Intellectual Poverty Law Center, which I head, would represent him if and when he might decide to seize control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
I hesitated. That if and when sounded more definite than hypothetical. Worse, my previous dealings with his father, Cliven Bundy, whom we had represented in his grazing-rights battle with the Feds, and who turned Porterhouse into patties with his mindless rant about African-Americans (what in God’s name do African-Americans have to do with grazing rights?), made me shudder.
However, I considered America’s founding principles, especially our inalienable right to eat free-range beef, and said yes. I prepared and sent to Ammon some observations, intended as a framework for a more formal understanding. I did not hear back from him. Instead, on January 2, 2016, he and a group of followers occupied the Refuge.
As I write this in mid-January, the situation is unresolved. To protect myself should things turn sour, I note here, for the record, my key recommendations:
Your Target: You may not have known that the word, Malheur, in the Refuge’s name, means Tragedy, in French. People might mistakenly conclude you want this to end badly. Why not occupy Friendlys or Village Inn, with their more positive image, free coffee refills, and all-you-can-eat salad bar.
Local Reaction: You are not a native, let alone even a resident, of southern Oregon, whose locals you need on your side. Remember how the Russian people and winter weather treated their so-called liberator, Napoleon (Napoleon was the … oh, never mind …).
The Beard and the Clothes: I know you claim to speak on behalf of all cowboys, but you already have most of them on your side. Your task is to win over the many Americans who aren’t cowboys. A clean shave, complemented by a neutral-color button-down shirt, a pair of clean Dockers, and Nike running shoes (they’re designed in Oregon!) should do the trick.
Your Followers: Same basic idea. A bunch of angry white guys just doesn’t cut it. You need a representative sampling of African-Americans, Latinos, an Asian, and at least a few women. I know I can’t persuade you to include any LGBT’s (LGBT stands for … oh, never mind …), though you’d really profit from their PR savvy. But keep the anger. Anger photographs well.
The Wildlife: You would win big points by not shooting any deer or antelopes. And, for God’s sake, don’t kill any Bald Eagles. That’ll get you more slammer time than shooting a Fed.
The Guns: Although I know you don’t intend violence, the public might misinterpret the guns. Leave them on the rack in your pick-ups. Think of Gandhi and Martin Luther King (they were … oh, never mind …). Anyway, they won what’s called the moral high ground by using non-violent civil disobedience — peaceful protest, maneuvering your opponent into using violence against you, or, at the very least, arresting you, with you going limp and forcing them to drag you away.
To win over the public, the blood shed must be yours, not your opponent’s. It doesn’t have to be buckets; just enough to make them look like monsters on the evening news. If you occupy Friendlys or the Village Inn, use the ketchup. It’s right there on every table, and it’s free!
… headlined a Thanksgiving Day e-mail, one I would have deleted immediately but for Save and Dolphin in the title. It read:
You may be ignorant of the perils it faces, possibly even unaware of its existence, but the Syrian Dolphin (Phocoena syriensis) is in imminent danger of extinction. This rare sub-species of Syria’s Mediterranean coast, which once numbered in the thousands, has dwindled to fewer than a hundred and could vanish unless we act now.
The Syrian Dolphin has become yet another casualty of the deadly Syrian civil war — sometimes directly, but more often as a consequence of the total collapse of Syria’s social and political order, and of the meticulous system of protection and support that had saved and stabilized this species against all odds.
Won’t you help now! Volunteers are needed on every front — rescue; transportation to safety in America; provision of acceptable habitat; medical and scientific support. If you are unable to volunteer, please donate. Simply contact us at ….
How could I, how could anyone, not be moved by such a message? Dolphins touch us deeply. They are remarkably human; they make intelligible sounds; they respond to us, learning from us, even forming powerful emotional bonds with us, all the more remarkably so for their inhabiting an entirely different realm.
How appropriate that this message showed up on the day we try to be especially thankful for our blessings and thoughtful toward those less fortunate.
I was ready to act when a second message showed up, entitled What You Need to Know About the Syrian Dolphin. Thinking it was a follow-up from the same source, I opened it. It was not what I expected:
You may have recently received a message urging you to support the relocation of Syrian Dolphins to the U.S. Don’t act hastily. You need to know the facts!
Syrian Dolphins Speak a Different Language: Analysis of their squeaks and ticks reveals that they communicate very differently from American Dolphins. There is little chance they could overcome this enormous language gap and fit comfortably and productively into local dolphin society even if, God forbid, they should demand to be “trained” through the medium of their own tongue.
They Could Introduce Dangerous Diseases: As American Indians know only too tragically, strangers bring diseases for which the native population has no defenses. Syrian Dolphins could wipe out our American Dolphins.
They Will Take American Jobs: American Dolphins work hard to support their families. The depletion of fish stocks in recent decades has hit them hard and driven the unemployment rate above 30%. The situation is bad even in protected locations like Disney World and SeaWorld where so-called animal-rights activists have forced scores of dolphins onto the welfare rolls.
They Could Harbor Terrorists: It is well-known that Russia, for years, explored the possibility of weaponizing dolphins to be used, in effect, as suicide bombers. (U.S. experiments were limited to using them to detect, not carry, weapons.) It is rumored that Russia shared its findings with Iran. Both Russia and Iran are close allies of the current Syrian regime. Need we say more?
I was dumbfounded but thankful for having been warned. If this could happen with dolphins, I said to myself, think how much more dangerous it would be if we were talking about actual human beings!
In 2009, President Obama tried to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo) and transfer prisoners Stateside, some of them to southern Colorado’s so-called Supermax prison. Congress, including most of Colorado’s delegation — Democrat and Republican — said no and the proposal withered.
Now, in 2015, the idea is again in the air, and Supermax is again under consideration.
Colorado’s Congressional delegation has changed a bit since 2009, but its tune hasn’t. Sen’s. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) cite existing law that prohibits such a move, and Gardner also worries about Coloradans’ safety, as does Rep. Doug Lamborn (R): The people of Colorado do not want the world’s worst terrorists housed in our own back yard.
Hello!? The world’s worst already are. In Supermax! For the home team, there’s: Vincent Basciano, Mafioso; Larry Hoover, gang-leader; Theodore Kaczynski, Unabomber. The visiting team features: Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 conspirator; Faisal Shahzad, Times Square might-have-been bomber.
Honestly now, are these nasties likely to make it out of what is fondly known as The Alcatraz of the Rockies and into our literal back yards? So far, no one has, or has even tried.
But what if a Gitmo alumnus did try to escape?
First, he’d have to get through a phalanx of hi-tech sensors, race past vicious attack dogs and armed guards, scale a wall that an Olympic pole-vaulter would quail at, only to face razor wire so sharp it could get a full scholarship to Harvard.
Then, if, by some miracle, he makes it out, his problems have only begun. If he is wise, he has escaped in the wee morning hours. Soon, dawn is touching the eastern sky and it is time for the day’s first prayer. He may be on the run, but he still must satisfy his religious obligations. After all, if he conveniently neglects the faith that justifies his chosen vocation, he might as well be a Unitarian.
Before he can pray, however, he must do his ablutions, which requires clean water. There are houses, but it’s not a good time to knock. The Arkansas River is nearby and mountain-clear, but he might want to avoid its vicious rapids that kill scores of rafters each year.
Somehow, he manages to ritually cleanse himself. To pray, he must face Mecca, but where is it? There aren’t any road signs and he can’t ask. He knows he’s in the western U.S., and Mecca must be sort of easterly, where — Allahu Akbar — the lightening sky seems to point the way … sort of. But sort of isn’t sufficient. Oh, the shame if he gets it wrong and prays toward Nashville or New York City!
Even if he actually gets it right, he has lost precious time and knows that he will lose more, since there are four more obligatory prayers today … and tomorrow … and … Pressure is mounting, but where is he to run? If he’s smart, he scrambles out of Florence, Supermax’s hometown. If he’s lucky, he avoids Canon City to the west and Pueblo to the east and heads southwest toward the mountains — the Sangre de Cristo (the irony of his finding shelter in the Blood of Christ will, sadly, be lost on him).
His choice, however, does have its downside. The area is very dangerous. There are rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. But, far more deadly, there are guns. He is walking straight into the heart and soul of NRA country, where every pickup has a shotgun rack and every hip a holster. Imagine the humiliation of a world-class terrorist being taken down by a mom packing heat or by a teenager, hunting squirrels with his .22.
All told, we have little to fear from hosting a few unpleasant visitors. Indeed, if common sense prevailed, the NIMBY/IMBY debate would focus on what really counts — $$. Supermax has been an economic boon to its hometown, and the arrangements to house this new group would bring more money.
Prisoning may, as the mayor observed when the Gitmo issue came up six years ago, be a recession-proof industry, but best not to take any chances.
African Americans, black, black lives matter, Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, fairness, gender, integration, justice, LGBT, NAACP, race, race relations, Rachel Dolezal, racial identity, segregation, white
Caitlyn Jenner, who once was a man, says she is now a woman. Rachel Dolezal, who once was white, says she is black.
Yes, they are serious about their new gender or racial identity, and, no, even though you may feel dizzy, you probably have not walked through the looking glass.
People don’t always tell the truth about themselves, but the conviction with which each identifies herself as, respectively, female or black, seems genuine. And the fact that each represents one of the two most significant streams of American social protest and cultural change — justice and equality for LGBTs and for African-Americans — suggests that they are not just toying with us, but challenging us to rethink our definitions of gender and race.
But public response to these two provocateurs has been very different. Jenner gets a Vanity Fair cover and a reality TV series, with raves, and Dolezal goes on unemployment, with decidedly mixed reviews.
Is this fair?
Some of the difference is chance and timing. Jenner has been a darling of the American public since his 1976 Olympic gold medal for the decathlon and has astutely kept himself in the public eye with the Kardashians and his/her gender transition.
Dolazel, on the other hand, is a public figure by default — denounced by her estranged parents, weighed down by a brother accused of child molestation and by troubling allegations that she skirted with the truth in the past. Not an easy hand to play.
The rap against Dolazel is that she’s slumming, that she could, if she chose, go back to being white without consequence, whereas those blacks who historically tried to pass as white, if discovered, were destroyed.
But Dolezal clearly is not slumming. Working for the NAACP on behalf of African-American rights is not slumming. Furthermore, the criticism is illogical and unfair if it favors one person’s right to be treated as white, regardless of ancestry, but opposes another’s right to be treated as black, regardless of ancestry.
Think of the absurdity: to prove that Dolezal has no legitimate claim to being black, we would have to subject her to DNA testing. Do you see the outline of a swastika emerging?
And, when it comes to criticism from within the African-American community, what rational purpose is served by putting up a No Entry sign? Don’t we define a self-contained, racially/ethnically/culturally pure community as a ghetto?
If we adore Jenner, who has done little more than trade on his Olympic glory, doesn’t some kind of moral balance demand that we give equal credit to Dolezal, who has put in the hard work, in what would have been anonymity but for her having been outed?
After all, fairness and justice for groups like LGBTs and African-Americans only matters if individual lives also matter.