EVERYBODY AGREES. AND YET.

1. It’s Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

2. Today is the 203rd anniversary of the London Beer Flood.

You read that right.

On this day in 1814, nine people died when vats containing more than 300,000 gallons of beer atop a brewery on Tottenham Court Road collapsed, swamping the adjacent neighborhood.

3. Sen. John McCain took a lot of folks in his own party to task last night when he accepted the Liberty Award in Philadelphia.

In his speech, the Arizona Republican said he worried the nation was abandoning the ideals it has advanced throughout its history “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.

McCain didn’t name any of those people. Apparently, he didn’t have to, because one of them chimed in this morning.

“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told a Washington radio interviewer. “I’m being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

Now, I’m not the biggest John McCain fan. He’s been dissed by Trump before – remember the I-don’t-like-war-heroes-who-are-captured canard – and still supported much of his regressive agenda.

But it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two. And even though he’s 81 years old and battling the ravages of brain cancer, I’d put his mind and courage up against Trump’s every day and be sure he’d win.

4. If you’re not from New York, how we vote next month on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention probably doesn’t matter.

Actually, if you’re from New York, you normally wouldn’t care either.

But this year’s referendum is a curiosity.

The current constitution requires that New Yorkers vote every 20 years on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention to revise or rewrite the document. This year is the vote.

What campaigning is being done, at least where I live and travel, is very one-sided. All the signs say vote “No.”

Rarely do the signs go into substance about why you should vote “No.” One that I saw near my mom’s house on Long Island talked about how it would raise taxes, because the convention costs money.

But the “No” signs are everywhere. On lawns and billboards. On car bumpers and magnets.

I have yet to see any outdoor display favoring this convention. There are no “Yes” signs to be found.

So I was wondering who is actually is for this thing.

One group is Citizens Union, which advocates for government reform. And goodness knows, given the propensity of scandal in the state legislature, New York could probably use reform.

It’s been my experience to live and work in three states – New York, New Jersey and Illinois – noted for their corruptibility. New York would outpace the other two, except that Illinois has had about as many governors go to prison than didn’t in my lifetime.

Anyway, Citizens Union says a convention would erase some of the problems that lead to corruption. It talks about rules on campaign contributions and election reform.

But some of the wording on the group’s own site might not be their strongest selling point.

Some opponents have stated that opening up the constitution could lead to efforts to reduce some protections that go even beyond those in the U.S. Constitution. And here’s the group’s response:

“Though an unlimited Constitutional Convention does present some risk to currently codified protections, we believe that this risk is worth taking, as it provides the opportunity to construct governmental systems that improve representative democracy through increased accountability, transparency, effectiveness, and ethical conduct.”

Citizens Union says a “Yes” vote will empower them to campaign for the things it wants in the constitution. As far as the things it doesn’t want – like, say, a right-wing effort to curtail abortion rights which you can bet a billion bucks would occur – you can trust them, they’ll fight it.

That doesn’t inspire confidence.

And yet, despite all the “No” signs and banners and stickers, the last poll taken by Quinnipiac College shows a plurality favoring this thing.

That might tell you something about the state of disgust with government.

Or it might just be that something everybody seems to hate must have something redeeming about it.

I’m probably going to vote “No” because I don’t see Citizens Union standing like Horatius at the bridge holding off the Kochs, the Trumpistas and corporate money. 

But if “Yes” wins, some Democrat should hire its campaign manager. If there is one.

 

Standard

ORANGE JUICE AND INJUSTICE

1. It’s Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

2. It’s the 60th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s apology to the finance minister of Ghana, Nobla Gbedemah.

While visiting Dover, Del., Gbedemah and a companion stopped at a Howard Johnson’s for an orange juice. They were given the juice in paper cups and told to take them outside, that the restaurant would not serve them.

Gbedemah complained. Eventually, Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon, invited Gbedemah to the White House for breakfast.

Now, there are indications that Gbedemah was a bit of a character. According to accounts, he had a falling out with Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah, who suspected Gbedemah of plotting a coup. He won a parliamentary election in 1969, but was denied his seat by the nation’s highest court and quit politics.

But you can’t fault the man for raising a stink about how he was treated at Howard Johnson’s.

You can’t fault any man or woman for complaining about being denied service or fair access or any kind of justice on the basis of their race.

3. Here’s a reminder: The power of how the NFL players and others are protesting racial injustice is driving their opponents crazy.

If they really wanted to disrespect the flag, the national anthem or veterans – as Trump, Pence and others who have wet their pants over this thing scream – there are more graphic ways to do it. They could shout invective or sing some other song while the anthem is playing. They could desecrate the flag. They could shun veterans.

They have chosen a gesture, kneeling, that a normal world wouldn’t see as wrong. That a normal world would see as reflective on the anthem – rather than just standing there wondering what plays the offense is running on the first series of downs.

By being respectful, they have given more power to the point – that there is racial injustice in this country that needs to be addressed. That the solution to the flap over whether police conduct toward African-Americans isn’t some mindless demand for worship of cops by people losing their reason to trust them.

Pence has no desire to solve any problems. If he did, if he actually had the wherewithal to be a leader instead of a sanctimonious leech, he would have met the players in Indianapolis and discussed why they were doing what they were doing.

Instead, the miserable Trump puppy did what the owner told him to do, and walked out of Sunday’s game. It was a political stunt, pure and simple, and if it didn’t backfire on this joke of a human being then the joke is on those who fell for it.

There’s a grievance. That’s what these players and thousands of others in society are saying. It doesn’t go away like a head cold or a zit. Trying to browbeat it away – or, worse, questioning the Americanism of the people expressing it, only seeks division to exploit and make political capital.

There’s a lot of pressure on these athletes – who, let’s face it, would be in politics and not sports if that’s what they did best. Their ability to make a living on their skills is extremely limited – by both the degree of their talent and their age. So protesting civil injustice can’t be an easy choice, even for the most radical among them.

If Pence was a man and not a squealing Republican hamster, he’d apologize for what he did last Sunday. The NFL players are protesting, respectfully but sincerely. In the process of kissing the boss’ ass, he disrespected not just the players, but the flag and the anthem being presented.

I know. Fat chance.

But solving the nation’s problems requires teamwork, not a bludgeon. And certainly not stunts or insulting tweets.  Here’s to hoping.

Standard

SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T LIKE WOMEN

1. It’s Friday, October 6, 2017.

2. It’s the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery.

It took place about 10 miles up the Hudson from where I live and is noted for the fact that the generals on both sides were named Clinton – in fact, both of the Americans’ generals were brothers named Clinton.

The British Clinton, who was no known relation, beat the two Americans. So not a good day in history for the good guys.

3. Neither, unfortunately, is today.

Let’s start with Harvey Weinstein.

Exposing sexual predators with power requires a strength that often takes time to muster. We saw what happened last year with Roger Ailes at Fox News.

Unfortunately, 20 years went by before Harvey Weinstein was shown for what he is. It was supposedly the best kept secret in Hollywood that this producer, a hit maker responsible for loads of Oscars, took unwelcome liberties with women in the film industry. He paid those who complained to maintain his reputation.

So kudos to The New York Times for bringing this out into the open. And kudos to the women who told their stories to the Times’ reporters.

Folks on the right are chortling over what they perceive as Democrats’ discomfort about Weinstein, who donated a lot of money to the party’s candidates over the years.

What Democrats should be is angry. So should Republicans and any other political stripe you imagine.

Sexual predators look for ways to cloak their heinous behavior in respectability. In Weinstein’s case, he might have reached the conclusion that as long as he put in his money in noble causes on the left, his abhorrent behavior would be overlooked.

That might have worked for a time. But hypocrisy stinks and the smell overpowers.

Several Democrats who received money from Weinstein are either returning it or donating it to groups advocating against violence toward women. That’s a no-brainer.

If you’re a Democrat and believe that women deserve fairness and justice, that money should be out of your hands.

And Weinstein should be a pariah to the party. For as long as he lives.

4. Today’s other news that reflects an irrational view of women comes, of course, from the White House.

As expected, Trump announced that employers no longer have to pay for essential contraceptive services required by Obamacare if they have religious objections.

For some reason, people who don’t believe women should have the ability to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full term also don’t believe women should have the ability not to become pregnant in the first place.

I guess, they believe, this is how you stop men and women from engaging in sexual activity unless they want to procreate.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. Most people don’t want 10 children. It’s hard enough to raise one.

Not to mention that some people don’t want any for whatever reason.

And that reason is nobody’s business but that person’s or couple’s.

Finally, contraceptives are not just for birth control. They are often used to combat other health issues such as migraines related to menstruation.

Here’s something that shouldn’t be a radical idea: Women are entitled to be free from pain.

But the busybodies of the Christian right seem to believe it’s divine will that their preferences on this be the law of the land.

Not every employer is going to be stupid enough to take away the provision of contraceptive services to employees.

Just the ones who hide behind some religious excuse to reveal their contempt of the women who work for them.

5. And, finally, this: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton apologized for remarks demeaning a female reporter who asked him about routes, which is what wide receivers run on pass plays.

He thought it was funny that she would know what a route was.

One thing that should be really tired is the concept that women don’t understand anything about sports.

It should have been tired more than a half-century ago.

It’s my experience that women know all they need to know about any sport. This shouldn’t need to be said, but women have proven themselves as sports journalists – and it is preposterous to infer that they’re not sophisticated enough to understand the real nitty gritty of the game.

And that applies to fans, too. It’s my experience, for instance, that women who follow the Mets enough to blog or tweet are as knowledgeable and entertaining in their statements and exhortations as any guy.

One more thing:

It was my mom, nearly 60 years ago, who taught me how to keep score. That I’ve done so to cover a World Series professionally is a tribute to her teaching and her passion for the game.

Now she’s absolutely wrong about supporting the designated hitter. She may be about to turn 85, but I don’t intend to let up on that argument.

 

Standard

SORRY. NOT THIS TIME EITHER.

1. It’s Monday, October 2, 2017. We’re two days into the final quarter of the year.

2. It’s the 11th anniversary of the West Nickel Mines School shooting.

A terrorist from nearby walked into an Amish girls’ school in Pennsylvania and shot eight of the 10 girls in attendance, killing five of them, before he took his own miserable life.

3. As I write this, the death toll from last night’s horror in Las Vegas is 59.

That’s nine more people than died more than a year ago in an Orlando night club, 27 more than in the 2007 slayings at Virginia Tech and 33 more than the number of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Shooting death stats look like we’re listing the home run leaders in baseball.

It’s pathetic. It’s sick.

And yet, there are idiots who believe that somebody’s right to shoot up a country music concert in Las Vegas supersedes the concertgoers’ rights to live.

We are going to hear – and we should hear – the tragic stories from Las Vegas. There will be more than we can bear. More than 500 people were injured last night.

That means about 600 lives were affected by a terrorist – stop minimizing these people as misguided and recognize them for what they are! – who somehow decided he’d go to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino Hotel and start shooting.

Actually, that 600 number is way too small. There are parents and children, spouses and lovers, business partners and drinking buddies, teammates and neighbors. Thousands of them whose lives can never be the same.

You would think that this one, this is the one, that will get this nation on a path toward reining in this embarrassment of gun violence. That this time, this time, is when we’ll put a stop to this nonsense.

That there must be something we’re doing wrong that civilized nations – this stuff takes us out of that group – manage to do fairly well. There are countries of significant size, such as Japan, that have fewer gun deaths annually than we had last night in Las Vegas. We can’t do that?

Actually, we can’t. We won’t.

I’d love to be optimistic and say there will some result from this. Why does any civilian need 19 automatic or semi-automatic weapons? Surely, there’s a way to control this – even a minimum effort.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

We didn’t do it after Columbine when it was high school kids killed or Aurora when moviegoers got shot. We didn’t do it after Virginia Tech when it was college students or after Colorado Springs when it was women getting examinations at a clinic.

Most of all, we didn’t do it after Sandy Hook. We didn’t do it when most of the victims were 6- and 7-year-old children, less than two weeks before Christmas.

None of that, not Orlando or Killeen, Texas, or San Bernardino or Roseburg, Oregon, or any other mass slaying you can think of moved the U.S. Congress toward some semblance of reason on the possession of firearms.

In fact, after Sandy Hook, the scumbag who runs the National Rifle Association stood in front of TV cameras and proclaimed that the real problem was that the school’s educators weren’t armed. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a guy,” said this collection of vomit and excrement.

And that’s where it stands. This country wouldn’t do anything about kids getting killed. The NRA roused its members, who got into their pickup trucks, sat on their brains and railed about how Barack Obama or some other liberal was taking away their guns.

What’s left to get indignant about if you can’t see that killing kids at an elementary school is the ultimate obscenity. That urinating on the flag while the national anthem plays pales in comparison.

So 59 people at a country music concert, while certainly an impressive number, won’t change anything.

The House might – might – postpone its vote that would allow looser restrictions on silencers that was scheduled for this week. But forget forgetting the idea. That ain’t happening.

And with this idiot who occupies the Oval Office, there’s no impetus at all for change.

I’d love to think that tonight, as families wail about the loss of someone they love, as friends stare blankly at the TV screens showing the latest news, as the beyond-belief brave men and women who responded to this incident continue to help those who were wounded, that this will be the turning point.

That the nation’s lawmakers will realize that prostitution to the gun industry is a surefire path to hell. That people have the right to go out in public – I guarantee no one in that concert crowd thought twice about his or her safety – without fear.

To a concert, a ball game, a mall, a rally, a parade, a hospital. To an elementary school, for God’s sake.

This is the game changer?

No. Sorry. They’ll wait this one out too.

But I’d give a lot to be proven wrong.

Standard

SAME OLD SAME OLD

1. It’s Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

2. It’s the 140th birthday of Edmund Gwenn, best known for his portrayal of Kris Kringle in the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.”

To commemorate, somebody should stand at the Macy’s in Herald Square and direct people to Bloomingdale’s. Unfortunately, you can’t send them to Gimbels – it’s long gone.

3. Trump said today he’s going to Puerto Rico next week.

I’m sure the folks there will be thrilled to see him – so long as he brings some bottles of water and other forms of help.

The problem is that the storm hit the island six days ago. Six days in which the federal government, led by Trump, seems to have sat around waiting for some guidance.

That guidance came over the weekend from, among others, Hillary Clinton. She suggests sending the military to help – it’s really good at that.

What Trump could have been doing the past few days, if he was any kind of a leader, is muster support among the American people for the folks suffering in Puerto Rico. His five predecessors directed some of their fundraising efforts toward that.

Instead, he has tweeted more than 20 times about NFL players’ actions in bringing police conduct and racial inequality to national attention. Calling them sons of bitches and saying they should be fired.

He has trashed John McCain for taking a principled stand not to deprive millions of Americans of health care.

And he decided that Puerto Rico’s debt crisis had something to do with why a hurricane hit it.

I think we’re all so desperate to help the people of Puerto Rico that even this belated stuff is better than the neglect so far.

4. If you’ve been watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s outstanding “The Vietnam War” on PBS, you know we’re up to the Nixon years.

They echo nearly a half-century later.

The war divided the country. Support for it evaporated as people began to realize what this documentary makes absolutely clear – the war was a huge mistake, compounded by the deceit of American leaders of both parties.

Johnson knew victory wasn’t at hand when he was saying it was. Nixon sabotaged peace talks in an effort to ensure his election.

And Nixon played the people who maintained their faith in the country, turning them against those who questioned the war and the conduct of the government.

If you remember the proliferation of “Love It or Leave It” stickers on Fords and Chevys in the early ‘70s, you can see where Trump and his ilk are going with this crap about the NFL players.

It will work for the Trump faithful. They still think Hillary Clinton committed a crime somehow. They still think Trump knows how to run a business.

It won’t work for too many other people.

For one thing, protesters learned something. It’s one thing to protest violence, racial injustice and unending wars. It’s another to disrespect the country.

The NFL and other athletes have wisely chosen to express their total belief in the promise of this country. They have wisely expressed their admiration for the men and women who wear the uniforms of the armed forces, and the job they do serving the nation.

They’re also not condemning the idea of police. They’re just saying that a lot of the people who wear the uniform are not a credit to themselves or their communities.

Hopefully, we’re going to avoid the kind of divide that crippled our country through the 1970s and beyond.

Although not if Trump can help it. You get the sense he’d love to channel his inner Nixon as a way to keep power.

Even Nixon loved the country. Trump loves Trump.

Standard

AMERICANS WHO NEED HELP

1. It’s Monday, September 25, 2017

2. Holy cow, it’s the 100th birthday of Phil Rizzuto!

This isn’t a full blog post – I won’t be posting as often this fall due to the demands of my writing class.

3. But I wanted to remind everyone – perhaps even the president of the United States – that Puerto Rico isn’t just some island in the Caribbean.

It’s part of the United States.

(I know. I’ve said this before.)

So if we’re wondering when Puerto Rico is going to get help recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, we’re wondering when our own country is going to help its own people.

And yet.

Trump spent a weekend going after athletes who don’t tow his line, but did nothing to rally support for people whose president he is.

The New York Times ran six stories on its front page this morning. Two stories on the protests by NFL players. One about buses in New York City. Zero about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans need our help. Big time. No place, perhaps in the history of this planet, has been devastated by a hurricane as Puerto Rico has. Its people have no power, no food, no water, no fuel – as well as a whole lot of destruction and a rising death toll.

So it’s up to us to help.

Here’s the link to Global Giving’s fund to help hurricane survivors: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-maria-caribbean-relief-fund/ . It’s way behind its goal of $2 million – the same organization mustered $3.5 million for Harvey victims earlier this month.

Help if you can. Our fellow Americans are hurting.

Standard

THE JIMMY FIGHT

1. It’s Friday, September 22, 2017.

2. It’s the first day of autumn. That stinks.

3. It shouldn’t just be up to Jimmy Kimmel to save this country from this Graham-Cassidy atrocity that looks as though it has a real good chance to pass the Senate.

But he certainly is doing heroic work, spending three of his monologues battling a bill that – for all intents and purposes – doesn’t mean much for him personally.

Kimmel has the money to pay for the care his infant son, born with a faulty heart, requires.

His point is that people who don’t have his resources should, if they were in the same circumstances, be able to get the same treatment for their baby.

Kimmel could have just kept quiet. He could have made a few snide one-liners about this bill, and maybe some of them would make one of those recaps of late night jokes you see on the morning talk shows.

But he’s gone all out – as if his baby’s life depends on it. His power is in the unselfishness of this.

Kimmel made himself the target for the bastards who think this bill is a good idea. The Internet trolls, the Trump worshippers, the people who blame the poor for standing in the way of their greed.

I don’t know if he’s going to succeed. But if he doesn’t, he hopefully will sleep better at night than the people who perpetrate this fraud – including McConnell, Graham, Cassidy, Ryan and Trump himself.

If they manage to pass this crap, this thing that will make health care an ordeal for millions of Americans, I hope they don’t get another decent night’s sleep for the rest of their hopefully short lives.

4. The events of the past month just reinforce this: Democrats seek to govern, Republicans seek to rule.

The Democrats sought the deal with Trump, the one that raised the debt ceiling and approved government spending in exchange for protecting children brought here by undocumented immigrants. They wanted solutions to problems – keeping the economy stable and taking some of the fear away from those terrified by Trump’s ending the DACA program.

That’s governing, which is what we elect people to do. I wasn’t crazy about dealing with a demon, but governing requires being a grownup sometimes, and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are grownups.

The Republicans don’t see that. With nothing else on the agenda, they went back to health care. They hadn’t abolished Obamacare, and that stuck in their craw.

Nothing bothers Republicans like being unable to wreak havoc simply because they can. Forget that Obamacare has given millions of Americans insurance they never had. Forget that it’s working to help make the country healthier.

They oppose it. Probably because a black guy who was popularly elected President was behind it.

So they came up with this Graham-Cassidy garbage. And because of the weird Senate rules, they only have until Sept. 30 to get it passed with a bare majority – 50 votes plus Mike “Praise God But Don’t Do Anything Godly” Pence. Otherwise it’ll take 60 votes – and the Democrats, to their credit, aren’t lending any to nihilism.

There won’t be any real hearings or debate. And despite the outcry of millions of Americans – maybe even to spite it – they’ll vote for this bill.

They’ll have ruled. Their majesties will have gotten the Obamacare repeal through.

And that’s all they can say. They won’t have done anything – not a blessed goddamned thing – to improve the health of the American people.

But that’s trivial to them. They’ll have won.

If they do, keep that in mind. And keep in mind every numbskull, every sap, every shell of a human being who calls himself or herself a Republican. Every one.

Graham-Cassidy is theirs. They own it.

 

Standard