WHO ELSE NEEDS TO TALK ABOUT COSBY

— It’s Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

— It’s the 54th anniversary of the Orangeburg massacre when Highway Patrol officers killed three South Carolina State University students and injured 28 others protesting a local bowling alley’s refusal to integrate.

The on-campus shooting doesn’t leave the same historic impression as the one that took place two years later at Kent State University in Ohio. There are several reasons why. But, unfortunately, one is that Black students were killed in Orangeburg and white ones died in Kent.

The protesters were decried as agitators in the moment. Today, the school holds a memorial for the slain and injured students – and the bowling alley is integrated.

— In what I call a duh move, I thought W. Kamau Bell’s four-part “We Need to Talk About Cosby” documentary was being released one week at a time on Showtime.

But, if you get Showtime, you can stream all of it without waiting for the final parts over the next two Sundays.

So I’ve only seen the first two of what I think, so far, is a remarkable work of exploration by Bell, who still identifies himself first as a comedian. It’s compelling to watch and burnishes Bell’s credentials as one of the sharpest minds in documentary television and film.

Because he is an African American, Bell’s focus is on how he and other Black people – particularly those, like him, who are in their 40s and 50s – reconcile the heroic image of Bill Cosby they had growing up with the evidence that he is a horrific sexual predator. 

Keeping the focus on how Black people view Cosby sharpens the documentary. It might be a journalistic choice on Bell’s part, but it’s also a smart artistic choice.

But, as a result, he doesn’t confront the questions that others face – and, since I’m an Italian-American white male, that means me.

I thought Bill Cosby was an American hero.

While Black people saw him as standing up for and advancing their image in society, I saw him as a genuinely funny man and a societal healer.

When I was in my tween and teen years, I got many of his albums. I watched the TV specials he did for NBC. I occasionally watched “I Spy,” which I remember as one of the first real dramedys that have become so popular in the 21st century.

Just before his downfall, my wife and I saw him do a two-hour, non-stop show in Morristown, N.J., that was entertaining and funny throughout.

All the while, I thought he was a Jackie Robinson of sorts – someone who, using the funny things shared by groups of us without taking race into account, was de-otherizing people of color and reminding us what we have in common.

But, as Bell points out, the same hints that Cosby dropped throughout his career – the whole obsession with supposed aphrodisiacs that people just laughed off – affect those of us fans of his who aren’t Black in a similar way to those of us who are.

I think that’s why the Cosby downfall seems, to me, the beginning of the Trump era. Someone we believed in turned out to be as rotten as anyone we despised. 

That threw us for a loop. We’re wary of anyone who seems to act heroically or behave in a civilized manner because we fear there’s something that will disillusion us about him or her.

And the question comes again: Do we reconcile Cosby’s genuine artistry with his horrific off-screen conduct?

For me, right now, the answer is “No.” The Bell documentary presents the women making accusations and I just can’t go back to thinking about Old Weird Harold and Noah’s Ark.

Is there a revision of this? Well, there’s certainly one for what happened in Orangeburg, S.C., on this day 54 years ago. 

But my sense is that Bill Cosby is about to be obliterated in the timeline of American entertainment and civil rights. And as good as he was as a comedian being as bad a person as he is makes that the right call.

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MAYBE BOOK BURNING IS A SEASONAL THING

— It’s Monday, February 7, 2022. 

Today is the 525th anniversary of the Bonfire of the Vanities, the burning of Renaissance art and literature in Florence.

The mastermind – if that’s the appropriate word – was a Dominican monk named Girolamo Savonarola. He decried these works as immoral and gathered them in the Piazza della Signoria for destruction.

Does that seem familiar?

Recently, a cetriolo in Tennessee organized the burning of books such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series.

I was going to mention his name, but that’s part of the problem here. These people throw these tantrums to get recognition. The first part of the solution is to minimize that.

Book burning and banning probably occurs all year round. But this winter seems to be a particularly bad one.

People don’t burn books to keep warm.

A lot of this is sheer racism. It’s tied to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ amazing scholarship on “The 1619 Project” for The New York Times – offering the idea that American history begins with the arrival of slaves, not the Declaration of Independence.

It’s an idea, of course, which means you can accept it or object to it – and maybe offer comparable scholarship and argument regarding your position as a way to find enlightenment. 

The idea of thinking offends the hell out of bigots. They’ve leeched onto the project in their effort to combat the increased diversity of this country – saying that kids are not learning how good America is, all the while demonstrating the bad that exists.

This has led to other book banning moves. Virginia chose a Republican governor because he made an issue about how one student was offended by Toni Morrison’s classic novel on slavery, “Beloved.” In other places, state and local authorities have found ways to remove books on racial issues, sexual orientation and anti-Semitism in an effort to impose their nihilistic agenda.

One thing leads to another. A reason books like the Harry Potter series spark the ire of weakass jerks is that they spark the imagination of young readers (never mind that they promote the morality of the major religions more effectively).

— And imagination is the real evil to these people.

Our kids are great at imagining a better country. They’re sick of conventions they had nothing to do with and they’re finding their way to a world of options. 

The Republican suppression initiatives aren’t just about stopping Black and other people of color from voting. They’re aimed at stopping young people – particularly those on college campuses – as well, because the rising generation has a lot of different ideas about a better America and world.

Ideas many of them have gotten from art, literature, music and, yes, movies and television.

And that’s part of what this is all about. When reactionaries talk about “protecting children,” what they really mean is “stopping children” – stopping them from thinking, learning and creating, and improving our society.

I’d like to think the 21st century Savonarolas – and I’m sure a lot of them would be offended by being equated with some Italian – aren’t going to succeed. 

The Florentine arsonists might have destroyed some precious works of art and literature we’ll never know. But there are millions of books out there – and there’s a whole Internet to explore. Quashing inspirational ideas seems an impossible task.

And yet, sacks of pus like the guy in Tennessee and the governor of Texas are going to try. They’re counting on the frenzy they’re whipping up to get people to do irrational things. And because they’ve placed such a stake in arming these people to the teeth, they think bullets might help them achieve their dream.

Up to now, history has rewarded the Leonardos and the Michelangelos – Savonarola pissed off the pope with his crusade and was hanged less than a year and a-half later in the same piazza where he staged his bonfire.

I’d like to think this winter of ignorance will end as well. I’m looking forward to spring – in more ways than one.

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MEDIUM RARE, WITH ONIONS

It’s Friday, February 4, 2022.

— It’s exactly halfway through winter 2021-22.

I’d like to think it’s downhill from here, folks. But if I do, there’s a 27-inch snowstorm waiting to zap me on March 4.

— It’s the 107th anniversary of the birth of actor Bill Talman.

He was best known for playing the district attorney with the worst prosecutorial won-loss record ever on “Perry Mason.”

What struck me when I was very young and my parents would watch the show on Saturday night was his character’s name: Hamilton Burger. Even at age six, it occurred to me that this was pretty lazy on somebody’s part; in this case, Perry Mason book series author Erle Stanley Gardiner, who obviously named this guy one day after lunch.

Talman died in 1968, at just 53, due to lung cancer. His other claim to fame was making TV PSAs against the cigarette smoking that took his life, some of the first ads to do so.

— When I worked at CNNMoney, we set up an office pool on the first Friday of the month based on the number of jobs created or lost in the prior month’s Labor Department report on nonfarm payrolls.

The payout was made right after we covered the story that day. It never occurred to us that we should wait a few months until the revisions came out.

I was reminded of that today when the January report was announced. 

First, after a week of expectations that the number would be weak, primarily because of the Omicron surge, the report showed 467,000 jobs added last month. That’s better than pretty good, although the unemployment rate – based on a separate survey – edged up to 4% from 3.9% in December.

Second, and more pertinent to my point, the 2021 numbers were all revised — as is the case every year due to an annual switch in how the department calculated the number (too complicated, not explaining it here).

So what had been seen as a weak jobs number in December, +199,000, is now +510,000. November’s revision was even larger, from +249,000 to +647,000.

But before you think these revisions are an unmitigated plus, consider June and July, each of which were revised lower by more than 400,000. 

Overall, the revision was a positive – an additional 217,000 jobs.

So here’s the point I’d make:

The jobs report is often a political cudgel. 

If it’s strong, the incumbent administration crows about it. If it’s weak, the out party decries a weak economy. Usually all this occurs within hours of the data announcement and plays out on cable news and business channels.

It might be too much to ask for the pundits to wait for the revisions. Because those who blasted the Biden administration on Jan. 7 should be chastened by the revision. And the Biden supporters who shouted about an amazing 1,000,000-plus job gain in July were, actually, premature. 

Who am I kidding? 

Like the CNNMoney jobs pool payout, there’s no backsies on political point making. The idea that the jobs report is just a gauge of the economy and a policy guide is not going to gain much credence.

That’s as obvious as naming a character Ham Burger.

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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

It’s Wednesday, February 2, 2022. 

— Yes, it’s 2-2-22. My guess is that you’re in a state that has some kind of Pick Four lottery, that’s the combination that a lot of people will play today. 

By the way, to celebrate, I got today’s Wordle in two guesses.

What else is today?

Well, of course, it’s Groundhog Day. But unless you’re waxing rhapsodic about one of the best comedy films of my lifetime, who cares? 

If the groundhog that keeps burrowing under my house shows up to see her or his shadow, I’d like to be there to stun it and take it somewhere far away.

In addition, from what I see on social media, it’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day. A day that, I should be embarrassed to say, I didn’t know existed.

But I have thought a lot about girls and women in sports. In particular, my favorite sport, baseball.

So, let me get to my point:

— Today would have been a really good day to announce a women’s professional baseball league for North America.

There’s something strange about the fact that this doesn’t really exist. 

If you do a Google search, you will easily find current professional leagues in four other major sports: basketball, hockey, soccer (I hate soccer, but for argument’s sake, I’ll include it) and, yes, football. 

But do a Google search on women’s professional baseball and you get at least a full page of references to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

You know what that is – unless you’re one of the five people who didn’t see “A League of Their Own.” The AAGPBL was formed during World War II in case men’s baseball had to be suspended due to the war effort. It inspired the Geena Davis-Madonna-Tom Hanks movie that has some of the best baseball action scenes to grace big and small screens.

But the league hasn’t existed since the 1950s. And despite the strides made in women’s sports since the adoption of the Title IX amendments for education in 1972, no sustained effort has been made to create a women’s baseball league.

Yes, there is a women’s national team – and that’s great. But it doesn’t feed into anything that pays athletes real money and creates nationwide fan interest. At least nothing a somewhat knowledgeable baseball is aware of.

Also, yes, women play softball. And the women who play softball are tremendous athletes. But softball is not baseball – it is just not as much fun to watch and its skillset is a little different.

I’m not privy to the rigors of training to play baseball. I played when I was a kid and I wasn’t very good – although the game-tying, bases-loaded, two-out in-the-bottom-of-the-final-inning, 3-2 pitch double I hit at age 12 has sustained me for more than 55 years.

— But I suspect women who play softball would be the best candidates to play pro baseball. In fact, I wonder if women would love the chance to prove their skills with a baseball.

I’m also confident that women’s athleticism has vastly improved in the 50 years since Title IX just because of the additional opportunity.

A successful women’s baseball league doesn’t need stupid gimmicks, although it could certainly use some of the promotions employed by men’s professional baseball. It could create rules that encourage and promote contact, playmaking and strategy – a different strike zone, the double base at first base are two things I’m thinking about right away. Since there’s not much precedent, tinkering with the game to make it better won’t have the sense of blasphemy of rule changes in men’s competition.

And success in a women’s game wouldn’t be defined as filling 40,000-plus-seat stadiums in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles at $100 a ticket. Start modestly – there are plenty of 3,000-10,000 seat stadiums in major metro areas or places unserved by Major League Baseball and its minor leagues.

Off the top of my head, in the New York area, there are good parks on Staten Island and where I live in Rockland County. I have no doubt that families will make the trip once in a while to see a professional game at a reasonable price.

The WNBA is a success – I think the games are more fun to watch than the NBA and the level of competition is outstanding. Two words: Sue Bird.

The National Women’s Hockey League and National Women’s Soccer League are growing. The Women’s Football Association will have its championship game televised on ESPN2 in July.

A women’s major league is worth a try. At the very least, as the men dawdle over labor negotiations and put the 2022 season at risk, it would be nice to pass a winter’s day mulling the prospects of the New York Warriors or the Los Angeles Battlers.

Announcing a women’s pro baseball league on National Girls and Women in Sports Day would have been an appropriate double play on 2-2-22.

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BONDING AND CLEMENCY

– It’s Wednesday, January 26, 2022. Winter is 40% over.

— It’s the 88th birthday of Bob Uecker. 

He’s a Baseball Hall of Famer despite a lifetime batting average of .200 as a catcher with three major league teams. Of course, that’s because Uecker built an amazing career after his playing days – comedian, actor, play-by-play announcer. 

Uecker was elected to the hall’s broadcasters’ wing in 2003.

— Bob Uecker is in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens aren’t.

There is a lot of handwringing among baseball fans and participants about yesterday’s announcement that Bonds and Clemens failed in their final attempt to gain election. It’s heightened by David Ortiz’s success in his first try on the ballot.

All three men have, at one time, been linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The big difference is that Ortiz got a sorta pass from baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. In 2016, Manfred said the 2003 test Ortiz was reported to have failed was tainted and that it shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the Boston slugger’s candidacy.

While that and some other off-the-field issues kept several voters from checking his name, Ortiz’s career and his Big Papi personality were enough to get him past the 75% threshold by just about 3 percentage points.

Bonds and Clemens are in a different league. 

Both men had stellar careers going before the steroid era came around. But both faced questions about their use of steroids – to the point that both Bonds and Clemens faced legal consequences. Bonds had a conviction overturned; Clemens was eventually acquitted of lying to Congress about his steroid use after a former trainer and teammate testified otherwise.

Despite all their numbers and accomplishments, particularly before the period their achievements were questioned, it’s important to remember that being elected to the Hall of Fame is not a right.

The writers who voted against the two men don’t have to consider the acquittals and overturned convictions. They have to decide whether what they think these two did was more detrimental to the sport than what they contributed to it.

— Lots of people are bemoaning the fact that the man who hit the most home runs in baseball history and the winner of the most Cy Young Awards for pitching are excluded from Cooperstown. Here’s why I think the writers did the right thing.

Yes, it does seem out of whack that Bonds and Clemens aren’t enshrined. I never rooted for them when they played, but I always recognize achievement – I absolutely agree that Met killer Chipper Jones was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and would have voted for Met killer Jimmy Rollins who barely survived the 5% cutoff in his first try.

But it’s wrong to think that there are no victims of what Bonds and Clemens are perceived to have done. There sure as hell are.

I’m talking about the men who played against them.

How many pitchers – particularly in the National League West – saw their career stats diminished because Bonds might have had an unfair advantage at the plate? How many batters – particularly those who more often faced the Yankees and Astros – saw their strikeout totals increase because Clemens might have had an unfair advantage on the mound?

And how did their performances affect the teams they faced, denying them better records and possible post-season glory?

The Hall of Fame gives players additional chances after the writers are finished with their consideration. In the case of Clemens and Bonds, they will be eligible for election in December when the Today’s Game committee, which considers those who played after 1988, meets.

The committee consists of 16 members, including players already inducted in the Hall, as well as baseball executives and veteran writers. And what the writers have done is leave this matter to them. If 12 of the 16 members approve, Bonds and Clemens can get in.

Ideally, the people who decide this should include players whose names aren’t on plaques. Players like, well, Bob Uecker – guys who pieced together six- and seven-year careers in the majors and lived in fear of the visit to the manager’s office to hear about a demotion to the minors.

But since that’s not how it works, it’s fine that at least some players – a few of whom might be Bonds’ and Clemens’ peers – get a say in this. If they get in, that’s OK.

It’s not about the writers’ personal agenda. It’s about who honors the game with their presence in that hallowed room in Cooperstown. Not enough writers think Bonds and Clemens belong there.

They rightly deferred it to others in a different – maybe even more appropriate – position to judge.

And if you’re a writer who’s not happy about that, consider this: for all the numbers and accolades they garnered in their career, Bonds and Clemens couldn’t get the same honor – being voted in by the writers – that many others with less stellar statistics attained. 

They – and you – will always know that.

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THE NOTHING ERA

— It’s Tuesday, January 25, 2022. It’s the 35th day of winter – there are 55 days left until spring.

— Today is the 239th anniversary of the birth of William Colgate, an immigrant soap maker who founded the Colgate-Palmolive Co.

I mention this as a reminder to myself that I have a dentist appointment today.

— Hey, I’m into Wordle too, and I’m thrilled to see the tweets in which you show how you did. It gives me a chance to play a secondary game – guessing what you guessed before you got the word right. Try it sometime.

But there are two irksome things I need to raise.

One, do NOT – NOT – show me or anyone else the freakin’ word when you get it right. Don’t even hint at it. It shows that you don’t realize that the Wordle you’re playing today is the same Wordle I’m playing today – which means I can’t play because you’ve told me what the word is!

Two, if you show me that you guessed the word on the first try, I am not going to believe anything other than that you are being dishonest about experiencing the first irksome thing I raised.

— A recent presidential election winner said the following in his victory address to the nation:

“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans … For those who have chosen not to support me in the past … I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

The sentiment might sound like George H.W. Bush or Joe Biden. But those very words – I cut out some parts that would give away his trademark horrific syntax – were spoken by Donald J. Trump in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016.

As we all remember, Trump’s victory was a narrow one. He won three states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – by small margins to end up with an Electoral College majority. He actually lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

Traditionally – and common sense dictates – that a narrow election winner looks for ways to grow his or her (assuming we one day get a “her”) support. And there were some naive people who thought Trump would do that. 

That’s why the word “infrastructure” generates a chuckle. Trump was supposed to build support by improving this nation’s crumbling highways and shoring up our utility grids.

(Leaving room here for your laughter)

— The thing is that sometime in the recent past, Trump and the Republican Party abandoned the idea of consensus building.

The sentiment went from “we can work together and unify our great country” to “you’ll love us when we beat you.”

The Republicans and their base are not the least bit interested in an overall better America. They don’t celebrate our shared triumphs – they don’t even want shared triumphs. 

They just want victories. They especially want victories on things you oppose because they want to show how they win better than we do.

Abortion is a great example.

An overwhelming majority don’t want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Only about 30% of the nation does. But that 30% has an outsize influence in government thanks to its support of the Republicans, who have promised to end abortion in this country.

Common sense says that the Republicans would find some sort of compromise on abortion. I’m not sure what that is, but there might be things that some of the other 70% would agree to that would build the anti-abortion choice base above 30%.

Nope. 

This is a zero-sum game to them. There is no other side but theirs. And their bet is that abortion isn’t enough of an issue to make a difference. 

It’s not a bad bet. Men don’t have abortions. Older women don’t have abortions. When you attack a right that’s actively shared by a subset of the population – I know that if you’re a woman of childbearing age you correctly think more of yourself than that, but hear me out – the resistance from the rest of the people is going to be muted.

Last week in his first anniversary news conference, Biden thought he was scoring an important point when he said this:

“Think about this: What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.”

The president’s idea is that solving problems is the nation’s business and that his administration is doing just that.

— Here’s what’s wrong with that: Republicans are for something. They’re for not being for anything.

Once upon a time, solving problems was, in fact, the nation’s business. Democrats believed government was the best entity for doing that. Republicans believed private enterprise did that best. The idea was to find a middle ground. 

If that was how our country stood right now, we’d have reason to be optimistic. We would all want a stronger, healthier, happier nation and the argument would be about how to get there.

But Republicans no longer care about that stuff. They don’t care how 332,453,728 Americans are progressing together.

They are about the individual. Collective action of any kind is tyranny. Republicans don’t see any need to solve problems because there’s no collective problem to solve – there’s just stuff going on that each of us has to handle in our own way.

That explains the COVID nonsense. 

Making people wear masks in public and get vaccinated makes all the sense in the world. It’s how civilized nations such as South Korea and Japan have minimized the impact of the virus. 

But it’s a community action – and that’s a non-starter with Republicans and the core that supports them.

Hell, Mitch McConnell has underlined his party’s Senate agenda – there is none. Axios reported last month that “… McConnell has told colleagues and donors Senate Republicans won’t release a legislative agenda before next year’s midterms, according to people who’ve attended private meetings with the minority leader.”

— Biden is like most other older Democrats – myself included, until now – who think that the best way to solve problems is to offer solutions and compromise to get a positive outcome.

Here’s the problem with this for Biden as his poll numbers slide to Trumpian levels: That won’t work.

There’s a core number of Republicans and their supporters – you can’t separate the party leaders from the lowlifes they’re pandering to – that will not support sunshine if the Biden administration has anything to do with it. It would be a government plot to shed light on their lives.

So when you try to compromise to meet some of these people part way, you only alienate the people in your party who expect you to fulfill the more ambitious parts of your agenda.

The way for Biden to boost his standing and give Democrats a fighting chance in the November midterms is to go long. Find a few initiatives that do well with the bulk of the people who voted for him in 2020 and run them as much as you can without needing Congressional approval.

Student debt cancellation is an example.

A poll taken by Morning Consult shows that 62% of Americans favor some form of student loan forgiveness. While only 19% favor forgiving all of the debt for all Americans, about 50% favor at least partial debt forgiveness for all Americans.

And, not surprisingly, those numbers are strongest among the people who owe the money – people who’ve graduated from college in the past 20 years and are saddled with these crazy debt loads.

It wouldn’t just be a gift to a younger generation. It would give them money to do other things – buy homes, start businesses, begin families. It would strengthen the loyalty of the next generation of leaders.

Just do it, Joe! 

The Republicans abandoned the idea of consensus building. You can’t think that they have ideas about “reaching out to you for your guidance and your help,” as Trump said on Nov. 9, 2016, in solving America’s problems.

Because they don’t want to solve America’s problems. They’re the “Seinfeld” of American history – a real show about nothing. 

They just want to beat you.

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SINCE YOU ASKED

It’s Wednesday, January 19, 2022.

It’s the 115th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee, the slaveowner and former U.S. Army general who led bands of insurrectionists seeking to dissolve the nation.

In Texas, the traitor’s birthday is celebrated as Confederate Heroes Day. It’s a state holiday. Other states celebrate the day later in the year. Kentucky, for instance, waits for June 3.

In case you were wondering if what you’ve been seeing in recent years is anything new.

Among those representing Kentucky in Congress is Thomas Massie.

You might remember him from a recent family Christmas picture in which he demonstrated his idea of how to celebrate the birth of “the Prince of Peace” – an event he somehow omitted in his holiday message. His entire family of seven is holding weapons, including one that’s semi-automatic, as he beseeches Santa to bring all of them some ammo. 

Massie is one the harder core insurrectionists in the Republican caucus – a happy warrior against the country from which he draws his paycheck.

Yesterday, in a tweet that keeps with his life’s mission of inducing liberal tears, Massie leaned into the narrative (one I don’t accept, by the way) that his party will gain control of the House this fall. 

He said – and I’m copying here because I’d like to limit this guy’s social media engagement: “What pro Second Amendment legislation do you want the House to pass when Republicans retake the majority?”

Hey, Tommy Gun Boy, thanks for asking.

I don’t own a weapon, would never own a weapon and don’t understand why anyone else does. I’m embarrassed by the fact that my country has one of the highest rates of firearm-related deaths in the world – a large number of them, by the way, by suicide.

But, Tommy Gun Boy, if you think that means I support repeal of the Second Amendment, you’re wrong.

This is what appears in the Bill of Rights: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So, taking you at your word that you want to consider legislation that’s pro-Second Amendment – or “pro-#2A,” as you and your bang-bang loving friends like to say – here are some ideas:

— In accordance with the Second Amendment’s proclamation that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, require every state to do thorough background checks on anyone seeking the right to bear arms.

— In accordance with the Second Amendment’s proclamation that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, require states to mandate that everyone seeking the right to bear arms undergo instruction in firearm safety and consequences – both when they purchase a firearm and then annually thereafter.

— In accordance with the Second Amendment’s proclamation that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, make certain the right of anyone to keep and bear arms is not available to anyone convicted of or legitimately accused of domestic violence. 

Yeah, I don’t think anyone who is the subject of a court protection order should have access to something that can end that dispute sadly. 

— In accordance with the Second Amendment’s proclamation that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right to keep and bear arms requires protection for the firearm in the home – including making it impossible for children under age 16 to get access to firearms on their own.

Gun accidents and suicide produce more death in America than homicide. That’s pathetic. I can’t understand why even the fondest gun advocate finds that acceptable.

— In accordance with the Second Amendment’s proclamation that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, states that fail to provide adequate regulation of firearms should be subject to financial penalty, such as reduced federal funding.

States that take in more federal funds than they contribute should have their funding reduced to equal levels.

And there should be legal liability for state officials who fail to fulfill their Constitutional obligation to well regulate the right to keep and bear arms.

For instance: Some idiot in Texas should face consequences for the fact that a nut case from Great Britain could hop on a plane, hang around Dallas for a few days, get hold of a weapon, then go into a synagogue and terrorize a rabbi and his congregants for hours while spewing anti-Semitic bullshit.

The problem with the Second Amendment isn’t its existence, Tommy Gun Boy.

Sure, it might be better for all of us if Hamilton, Madison and the gang left it out.

But the problem with the Second Amendment is that we’ve allowed gun crazies like you to ignore the first four words. 

Gun control, pal, is inherent in the Second Amendment. That’s why it’s a more logical solution to the gun violence problems afflicting our country than arming everybody to the teeth and watching the carnage that happens.

But, hey, I suspect that’s not what you had in mind, Tommy Gun Boy, when you asked the question.

So I hope Santa got you the ammo you wanted. Because I’m sure as hell he didn’t bring you any decency.

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UNCASTING THE DIE

— It’s Monday, January 10, 2022. It’s the 20th day of winter – there’s 70 days left.

— On this day 2,071 years ago, Roman general Julius Caesar led his army south across a small river called the Rubicon in what’s now northeast Italy.

That violated an agreement that he stay on his side – a step that resulted in a civil war and his eventual triumph that made him dictator.

Caesar is quoted as saying “Alea iacta est” – “The die is cast” – referring to the games of chance that preceded Wordle as the mass preoccupation in Roman time. The expression now means that you’ve made your move – there’s no turning back.

— In modern Rome, Pope Francis, perhaps the most progressive pontiff of my lifetime, got himself in a flap last week.

He lamented that many 21st century couples shun the idea of raising children or having more than one child, substituting pets for offspring.

“And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity,” Francis said. “And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.”

I am known among family and friends for my distain – hell, I’ll just say it, fear – of animals. And the behavior of some pet owners who believe their creature’s rights supersede mine drives me crazy.

But the pope’s kinda out of turn here. Especially for a guy whose full-time job proscribes him from contributing to “the richness of fatherhood.” 

If people want Rover or Whiskers instead of Robert or Wendy, that’s their business. Better they’re happy with the choice they make than miserable with a choice they resent.

— One thing that likely won’t encourage couples to procreate is the flap over in-person schooling in the wake of the omicron surge. 

In fact, I can only imagine the strain on parents of preschoolers and school-age children right now.

There are some parents who are angry schools aren’t open. They need to work to support their families – and they are not in jobs or circumstances that allow them to work from home.

There are some parents who are angry schools are open. They don’t want their kids to get COVID, even the milder omicron strain. Who knows what the long-term impact is?

This is a mess.

Forcing schools to open in the midst of this wave puts the kids, their teachers, administrators and support staff at risk. It’s why this idea from New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams, that “swagger” will conquer COVID, that people need not fear getting it, is nonsense.

It’s easy for him to say that about your kid. But no one knows how individual children – or individual adults – will cope with illness.

On the other hand, it’s understandable that there’s concern about the impact of two years of school closings and remote learning on the social and intellectual development of children. Many of us – particularly on the left – lament how far behind American kids are in all school subjects compared with their counterparts in other countries.

— At the core of this problem, much as some of the other issues, is the idea that we were lulled into a sense that this pandemic was ending.

Think back to September, when it seemed as though the delta wave was subsiding and cases were dropping fast. We thought we had weathered the storm and that normal was back.

So we didn’t do a bunch of things. We forgot about the idea of developing widely available and reliable home testing or keeping the in-person testing at a high level. 

And we didn’t make contingency plans – the ones we should have made before COVID even broke out in this country – for our businesses and schools.

Thus, here we are. 

The problem with problems in 2022 America is that they’re seen as political opportunities and not, well, problems that warrant solutions. 

— So for those of us who actually want to get this resolved, here’s one idea:

Do you live in a place with a big shopping mall? Or with a large number of strip malls?

Or do you live in a major city with a lot of office space?

Have you noticed how many of these spaces are empty?

Thanks to the pandemic – and to some pre-pandemic trends – there’s a lot of room out there.

Where I live, the only indoor mall has lost two anchor stores and several big box spaces, along with the smaller national chain stores that used to the mainstays of the mall experience.

So why not use that space to solve the COVID education crisis?

Instead of crowding kids into classrooms that are petri dishes for omicron and all the Greek letters that’ll come after it, why not innovate? Honeycomb the empty floor space with sections that can hold three or four kids and an instructor. 

An example: If you take a 2nd-grade class of 40 students, you create 10 cubicles in the abandoned Sears or Macy’s. You separate fully vaccinated kids from those vaccinated to a lesser degree or not at all. 

The regular class teacher supervises and teaches in cubicles within her or his comfort level. The other cubicles are staffed by support staff, administrators, high school or college students looking to be education majors, and parental and other community volunteers.

Yes, you need a lot of “assistants.” A district would need to assess its ability to provide for temporary staffing.

But this gives students the in-person education everyone thinks they need in about as safe an environment as can be mustered.

There are other problems. School buses are an issue.

But instead of wringing our hands and complaining about our dysfunction, let’s do something about it. Consider my idea and see if it’s feasible. Or if it can be reformed to be feasible.

Just don’t stand in front of a microphone and tell scared parents they just need a little more swagger. That’s BS. 

This isn’t an old John Wayne movie. There’s been real sickness and real death in the past two years. And while kids might not face, as a group, more severe consequences from COVID and its omicron variant, some of them do.

Most parents want to enjoy the “richness of fatherhood or motherhood.” They’re not willing to cross a rubicon of risk for the child they love.

So let’s do something to help.

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THE TASK AT HAND

— It’s Friday, January 7. 2022.

— It’s the 17th day of winter, but the first time we’ve gotten measurable snow where I live.

When it snows for the first time each winter, I like to post the words of Lou Grant, the news director of WJM-TV in Minneapolis. This, from a 1972 episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” sums my attitude on this topic.

“I hate snow. I don’t like its color. I don’t like its shape. I don’t like its temperature. I don’t like how it feels. Or what it does. I don’t like it in snowballs. Or on hills. I don’t like anything about it. It’s a soft, wet, white, mushy, melting, freezing mess. I hate snow as much as I hate anything in the entire world.

Two things about this: One, my wife took the shovel out of my 67+-year-old hands and retained someone to plow our driveway. So snow is not a physical burden. That doesn’t diminish its annoyance factor.

Second, this is the first winter season that I’ve sent the Lou Grant quote since the passing of the man who actually uttered it, Ed Asner. It’s been a sad year for fans of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” with the deaths of its four remaining principal actors – Asner, Cloris Leachman, Gavin MacLeod and Betty White.

So this quote is part of what survives. It’s an awesome legacy. May his memory be a blessing.

— The December jobs report released at 8:30 a.m. ET today was really interesting to someone like me who has been involved in putting out the news about the numbers.

The general understanding we had was that the more important number was what’s officially called the establishment number, a survey of organizations that hire people. The headline is the change in people working anywhere but a farm.

In today’s report, the number was 199,000. In a simple world, you would think it’s good when the number goes up and bad when it goes down.

But economists and investors don’t quite see it that way. That’s because they’ve spent the past few weeks making forecasts about the number – and they expected something more than twice as big.

So if you’re a novice to this and don’t understand why anyone would be disappointed with a 199,000 gain when, hey, at least it didn’t go down like it did when COVID began, that’s why.

— But the nonfarm number isn’t the only one that’s widely reported.

There’s the number based on a completely different survey – the Labor Department calls people on the phone and knocks on doors and asks them if they’re working. This is the household survey and its headline number, famously, is the unemployment rate.

That number came in this morning a 3.9%, a 0.3 percentage point decline from November.

That is inarguably better. It’s the lowest level since before the pandemic.

— Both of these numbers have some cautionary factors.

The nonfarm reports for October and November were both revised higher, reflecting data received after the gathering deadline in the middle of the named month. October, in particular, was revised higher by 103,000, to an amazing 648,000.

That’s a good thing. There’s a strong chance the December number won’t look quite so weak after it’s revised in the next two months.

On the other hand, a deeper dive into the unemployment rate shows that white, Hispanic and Asian people fared pretty well last month, the same wasn’t true for Black people. The unemployment rate among Black people rose by 0.6 percentage point, to 7.1%.

That’s not a good thing.

— Overall, it would be fair to call today’s report – which includes a lot of other really important data – positive. And now you’re going to get the explanation on why that could be not completely good news.

It’s great when more people are working. And it’s great when, as today’s report also showed, people are getting paid more for what they do – the increase in pay for people who aren’t the boss was 0.7% month over month, an amazing 8.4% if extrapolated over the course of a year.

Can you imagine the glee in your household if you got an 8.4% raise? That actually happened last month.

But somebody’s gotta pay for that 8.4% raise. And it’s very likely that we all did – employees traditionally hike prices when they have to pay more to workers.

You’ve heard a lot about inflation in recent months. That’s one of the ways it shows up.

The Federal Reserve has two jobs. One is to make sure as many people as possible are working. The other is to keep inflation under control.

At a 3.9% unemployment rate, the Fed’s going to get good grades for job one. But a 6.8% inflation rate, as the Labor Department reported for November, doesn’t quite cut it.

Which means that the Fed will need to raise interest rates, probably sooner rather than later. That will slow the job growth – employers will pay more to borrow money to boost their businesses. 

It will also mean if you want to get a mortgage for a new home, you’re going to pay more.

Still, it’s better to have a fast-growing economy that needs the government to apply brakes than a sour economy that requires action to undo individuals’ misery. 

The degree the Fed gets this right will determine a lot about our collective economic situation in the coming year.

— Because the jobs numbers affect the economy so much, there’s always a political component to its reporting.

President Biden, fresh off his widely acclaimed Jan. 6 anniversary speech, gave remarks about the report this morning. And, as presidents or their staff are wont to do, he put the rosiest picture he could on the numbers.

He focused on the unemployment rate, the number that puts the report in the best light. As far as the nonfarm payroll picture, he didn’t mention the 199,000 figure specifically, but included it as part of an annual overview that shows phenomenal total job growth in the first year of his administration – an increase of more than 6 million since last December.

While crowing about the numbers and what his administration to help produce them, Biden also showed that he knows he has to be cautious. He mentioned his understanding the Fed’s role – independent of his administration – to get inflation under control.

Democrats are rightly anxious about inflation. It contributed to undoing Jimmy Carter’s presidency and helped secure Ronald Reagan’s when his administration – aided by the Fed chairman Carter appointed – got it under control.

With all the issues confronting Democrats in a midterm election that could make or break democracy in this country, Biden needs the best possible economy.

The jobs numbers are, overall, a big plus. Taming inflation without weakening those jobs data should be very high on the administration’s list of 2022 priorities.

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THE LONG RUN

It’s Thursday, January 6, 2022. 

In Christianity, it’s the Feast of the Epiphany – or Dia de Reyes – the day the three Magi showed up in Bethlehem with an assortment of gifts that seems a little strange for a 12-day-old boy.

Of course, we had an epiphany of sorts a year ago today.

I was getting dressed for a run in the park on a chilly January day when I saw some social media buzz about crowds at the Capitol. I turned on CNN – the home team, as I call it – and never got my running socks on.

Our notion that the United States is a stable, peaceful democracy shattered in pieces with the glass that surrounded the doors to the U.S. Capitol.

We learned that there really are people in this country who would fight and, yes, kill for a guy who couldn’t make money running casinos. Like trout in a pond – with the brains to match – they bit on the worm of lies Trump told about an election he lost fair and square.

President Biden called out Trump this morning in his forceful, well-delivered remarks at the Capitol.

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said.  “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.”

The problem is that few of the people who took part are willing to admit that they were duped. In fact, many of them have doubled down on big lies.

I’m not sure how we resolve this. But I know this: I feel today as I felt on Jan. 7, 2021 – and Sept. 12, 2001. 

I’m not giving in to terrorists. I don’t care if they live on this block.

I know they live around here. When I drive home, I pass a massive sign written crudely in big letters – “DON’T SUBMIT LET’S GO BRANDON” – the latter part of that being the right wing’s oh-so-clever way of saying “Fuck You, Biden.” These self-proclaimed patriots don’t even have the guts to swear honestly.

In the next weeks and months, I’m going to throw some ideas out there for getting this handled. No, I’m not going to advocate violence. 

But facts are facts. On Nov. 3, 2020, more than 81 million voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president, 7 million+ more than voted for Trump and Mike Pence. (BTW, Mike Pence is a creepy politician, but on Jan. 6, 2021, he acted in accordance with the Constitution at considerable peril, and deserves our plaudits for it. I don’t care if that was what he was supposed to do – Trump was supposed to concede the election and look what happened.)

Anyway, those of us in the majority – Biden got more than 50% of the popular vote and well over 50% of the Electoral College vote – should have some tools at our disposal to fight back. 

This crap has gotta end.

Today, I went for my run. Tomorrow, we need to start running the Lardass of Mar-El-Lago out of body politic forever.

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