Barking Backward

A Blog by Jameson Parker

The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

- Robert Frost

All the News We Like to Print

December 15th, 2017 No Comments

Is there any news that isn’t fake these days?

In an episode of the old Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary commits some embarrassing journalistic blunder, and in an effort to console her, her gruff-but-lovable boss (is there any other kind on television?), Ed Asner, tells her of a blunder he committed during the early days after America’s entry into World War Two.

As a junior editor, alone in the newsroom late at night (he tells her), he got a frantic call from a trustworthy source telling him unbelievably horrible news about another surprise bombing by the Japanese. He had no way to confirm the story and had to make his decision completely alone: go with it, and risk making a colossal mistake; or pass, and risk losing the scoop of lifetime. He decided to go with it, and the next morning, his newspaper was the only newspaper in America to report on the surprise Japanese bombing of Cleveland.

I may have some of the details wrong (the Mary Tyler Moore show went off the air in 1977), but you get the idea.

I remembered that episode while watching the acclaimed and sometimes controversial journalist Judy Miller, who once won part of a Pulitzer Prize (it was a team effort) for her reporting, and who once spent eighty-five days in jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source involved in the Valery Plame affair during the George W. Bush administration. So no one can claim Ms. Miller’s credentials are not admirable, or that she doesn’t have the courage of her convictions. But I watched her defending the spate of recent journalistic “blunders,” otherwise known as fake news stories, by saying journalists have to be bold and have to be allowed to make mistakes in the interests of holding our government accountable. I should point out that Ms. Miller has herself made some journalistic blunders, so there may a personal bias in her argument, because she was alluding to embarrassingly stupid violations of the most fundamental rules of journalism, stories so blatantly incorrect and completely unverified they had to be later retracted by… oh, pick a news outlet, print, televised, or online. The recent list includes, but is not limited to:

Brian Ross on ABC reporting false nonsense about Gen. Michael Flynn and Donald Trump; CNN reporting false nonsense about James Comey and Donald Trump; the Washington Post reporting false nonsense about Russia hacking into Vermont’s power grid; the Washington Post reporting false nonsense about Russia’s disinformation campaign; Slate’s false nonsense about Donald Trump’s “secret email server;” Fortune’s false nonsense about the Russian hacking of C-SPAN; CNN’s false nonsense about Wikileaks and Donald Trump; Bloomberg’s and the Wall Street Journal’s false nonsense about how special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Deutsche Bank to get Donald Trump’s financial records…

The list is longer, but I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you see the trend: virtually every one of those journalistic blunders, also known as fake news (some might call them lies), involves Donald Trump in a negative light, or Russia in a negative light that is linked, either directly or obliquely, to Donald Trump.

And it is that single-minded focus that makes Judy Miller’s argument indefensible: when mistakes are made, they must, by definition, be mistakes, not intentional efforts to deceive. If any news source, just one, had mistakenly reported something erroneous that reflected well on the Trump administration, I would buy the argument that these are just unintentional by-products of an overly vigilant fourth estate (or, perhaps, in our country, fourth branch of government). But there hasn’t been one story that erred the other way.

There is another, more ominous, aspect to this. All of those stories came from confidential sources, and because of the sensitive inside information involved in each of the stories, the confidential source in each case must have been a person or persons in any one of the various governmental agencies that had access to sensitive information. That fact should scare the hell out of all Americans.

Consider what we know about some of our governmental bureaucracies:

-Conservatives groups know all too well they cannot trust the IRS; just think of Lois Lerner.

-Ranchers have long known they cannot trust the BLM or its parent agency, the Department of the Interior; too many cattlemen have been run out of business and/or criminally prosecuted for you to doubt that.
-Small businesses, ranchers, and farmers have long distrusted the EPA, which has had a litany of abuses and one embarrassing catastrophe after another, from financial mismanagement of your tax money, to draconian overreach, to the devastating toxic waste spills of 2015.
-No one should trust the NSA, which was caught spying on American citizens opposed to the Vietnam War, and has more recently been caught conducting illegal surveillance on millions of American citizens, and illegally collecting data from cell phones to track the movements of millions more.

-And the FBI… Where to start? From wiretapping and surveilling Martin Luther King, to the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that may have been responsible for the murder of various black civil rights activists, including Malcolm X, to their incomprehensible actions—aided by the ATF—at Ruby Ridge, and the equally incomprehensible and mismanaged siege of the Branch Davidians, to the most recent Clinton/Lynch/Trump/Russia/DNC labyrinth of misinformation and stonewalling, practically no one trusts the FBI or its parent agency, the Department of Justice. In fact, name an agency today that has the unqualified trust of the American people.

Are any of those organizations the ones responsible for leaking false nonsense to a gullible and rabidly anti-Trump press? Or (being a child of the cold war and its use of dirty tricks) is Donald Trump’s administration deliberately leaking false information about itself and him for purposes of…? (That’s where I fall apart with that theory, because I can’t imagine how such a dangerous game would benefit him.) No one knows what the truth is. The only certainty is that while many people rightly distrust the agencies mentioned above, practically no one trusts the press, and since almost every day another piece of biased nonsense is solemnly reported as gospel truth—until it is quietly retracted—no one is likely to trust the media. The fourth estate, the supposed watchdog of our democratic system, has become even less trustworthy than the various agencies that have abused their power. And that’s about the saddest thing I can think of.

Hell, these days, I’d be encouraged just to hear the Japanese had bombed Cleveland.

Share Button

Morning’s Minion

December 8th, 2017 6 Comments

 

I was driving home the other day, when I saw a Peregrine. Those of you who know anything about this most remarkable falcon will understand what I am saying is: I caught a quick glimpse of a Peregrine. I was driving one way and it was flying the other, and since the Peregrine is considered the fastest bird on earth, I didn’t really have much of a chance to study him.

I should qualify that. The Peregrine has been regularly clocked at speeds well in excess of two-hundred miles an hour during its stoop (the hunting dive a bird of prey makes when it plunges after its prey), but it doesn’t routinely fly that fast while en route from point A to point B. On the other hand, it doesn’t exactly lollygag, either, and this one was clearly a Peregrine with places to go, people to see, and things to do.

Another notable thing about the Peregrine is that while it is the most widespread raptor on earth, being found virtually everywhere except New Zealand, it is also quite rare (my 1990 edition of Roger Tory Peterson lists it as endangered), so seeing one in the wild is a big deal. I’ve only (knowingly) seen three in my lifetime, but by far the most unusual sighting was the first one I ever saw, in the Arc Dome Wilderness area of the Toiyabe Mountain Range in central Nevada.

I was deer hunting, and for reasons that have now faded from the memory bank, I was sitting with the outfitter’s wife, overlooking a very deep and rugged canyon, when she spotted a Peregrine gliding below us, presumably in search of his dinner, as I was in search of mine. I think I can safely say there are not many people in the wide world who have had the privilege of looking down on the back of this revered bird.

There are multiple subspecies of the Peregrine, and I am nowhere nearly knowledgeable enough to know which is which or how to tell them apart (my friend Steve Bodio— http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com– almost certainly can), but judging by maps of ranges, it is a safe bet that all three of the ones I have seen are the so-called American Peregrine falcon, since that’s the one found in all of the lower forty-eight states with the exception of the Pacific Northwest. (The one in the Northwest is known as a Peale’s falcon.)

Peregrines were once almost, if not completely, exterminated on the East Coast by pesticides, but after they began their comeback, New York city made a specific effort to introduce them into the canyons of Manhattan. If memory serves, this was done in part for purposes of preserving the species, but also in part to keep the pigeon population in check, pigeons in the Big Apple being as plentiful and obnoxious as pickpockets, purse snatchers, and politicians. Apparently that reintroduction effort was successful, and the average birdwatcher today is more likely to see a Peregrine in Manhattan than in the mountains. But wherever you see one, it’s a thrilling sight, just as seeing any accomplished predator is thrilling.

I know I’ve posted this before, and I know the term “windhover” refers to a kestrel, not a Peregrine, but it is still a poem well worth posting and reading over and over, especially at the beginning of this Christmas season.

 

The Windhover, by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

To Christ our Lord

 

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

 

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

 

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Share Button

Wheelchairs Redux and Updated

December 2nd, 2017 11 Comments

 

“Owing to… what’s that something of circumstances you hear people talking about? Cats enter into it, if I remember correctly.”

“Would concatenation be the word for which you are groping, Sir?”

“That’s it.”

Talking my lead from Bertie Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves, owing to a concatenation of events and personal projects, I have been somewhat remiss in maintaining this dusty and disorganized blog. In fact, I have been more than somewhat remiss, not having written a word since mid-November. This may have been a source of relief and joy for some people who think I should cease and desist altogether, but too bad for them.

I was running my dogs the other day and ran into a neighbor who mentioned she had contributed to my daughter’s wheelchair-funding campaign on GoFundMe, and that chance meeting sort of brought me back to earth. To update you, my daughter reached all the funds necessary for her new wheelchair, and I want to thank everyone who contributed—either through GoFundMe or other methods—to helping her achieve her goal. I am deeply touched by and grateful for the immense generosity of so many people. Your kindness and willingness to open your hearts and wallets have helped a very remarkable young lady more than you know. Please accept my sincerest gratitude and respect for your generosity.

Thank you.

Share Button

Communism, Glorious Communism!

November 16th, 2017 10 Comments

 

I somehow missed the fact that October marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of communism. Communism is not something I tend to dwell on, having grown up overhearing the soft conversations of adults discussing, with deliberately vague and carefully chosen words, the “bad things” that were happening in Russia and China; conversations about the domino effect and the Dulles brothers; hearing the names of tiny countries in southeast Asia that would later become unhappy household words in American homes; hearing—and seeing a photograph in the newspaper—about women and boys being murdered in a place called Yugoslavia because they threw rocks at tanks.

“But Daddy, aren’t tanks made out of metal? How could a rock hurt the tank?” And my father would try to explain, in his inimitable style of talking to, never down to, a child as he might an adult, only with slightly simpler words.

Only a few years later, when I was thirteen (the year the Berlin Wall went up, in fact) a friend and I, a German boy of fifteen, tramped and hitchhiked through Yugoslavia during a great and glorious summer adventure my father allowed me to take part in, and unlike every other country we passed through on that remarkable adventure that unforgettable summer, the peasant farmers we saw in the fields of Yugoslavia never hailed us or even waved. Instead they leaned on their tools, or stopped their teams (there were damned few tractors even in western Europe in those hard, post-war years) and stared at us—just stared, as if we were things not quite unknown, but not quite human enough to merit any interaction. Pancho (my German friend’s real name was Dieter, but for obscure reasons his nickname was Pancho) and I had waved at first, but we soon gave it up, defeated by the blank, unresponsive stares; not hostile, just completely emotionless, as if the lessons of survival under the tender mercies of communism (Don’t give them anything they can hang a label on. Don’t wave back. Don’t react in any way. You don’t know who they are or what they might be. Just pretend they don’t exist.) had been learned so quickly in just the few short years between those newspaper accounts and our long trek down that grey land.

And for the most part, we did cease to exist. The only conversation I do recall in that country was when the authorities confiscated our money for some reason. By the grace of God (who was not supposed to exist under the communists) they missed the little safety stash I had hidden in a leather pouch around my neck, but it was hardly enough to get us through. In Greece, people smiled and waved and invited us into their homes to share their meals—and Pancho, who was very blonde and very handsome, became an object of great interest to the beautiful young black-haired, black-eyed girls in those tiny houses—bakers gave us the burned loaves, and farmers handed us tomatoes and grapes right off the vine, otherwise we would have gone hungry. But in Yugoslavia we didn’t exist, and we went hungry.

I saw my first hammer-and-sickle in Yugoslavia. We hiked more than hitched, because there were so few automotive vehicles of any kind. And I attributed my discomfort in that country in part to the photograph I remembered, and the remembered conversations of what had happened, and the other conversations I had not been supposed to hear, and I couldn’t wait to get to Greece. But now, looking back, I think I also picked up in some way on the despair and fear of the people who wouldn’t talk to us. How could one not?

That was my experience of life—if you can call it that—under communism. But what I saw was the good side. Let us now, on this one-hundredth anniversary of the creation of the great utopia of shared bounty and perfect equality in a worker’s paradise, take a quick look at just a tiny bit of what communism achieved in the twentieth century.

In the USSR, under Stalin (note that it is under Stalin exclusively; the number does not include other, comparatively less heavy-handed, rulers of the USSR) twenty-million (20,000,000) people were exterminated. That is the conservative estimate; Alexander Solzhenitsyn (who managed to survive both imprisonment and a labor camp) estimated sixty-million (60,000,000). Other sources that include the numbers of those who were allowed to die of starvation, as opposed to being actively murdered, put the estimate even higher.

In China, under Chairman Mao, the labor camps were relatively benign, being responsible for only a paltry, estimated, over ten-million (10,000,000+) deaths, but when it comes to famine, ah, there we can all learn of the joys of life under a real Communist Leader when he rolls up his sleeves and puts his mind to it. It is hard to nail down an accurate number, but the conservative—conservative!—estimate is that Uncle Mao knowingly allowed (most historians claim he deliberately and actively encouraged) approximately thirty-five-million (35,000,000) of his people to starve to death during the Great Famine (1959-1963), so that including the executed, the labor camps, the famine, and various noble social reforms of other Chinese leaders, the estimate is somewhere between sixty-five-million (65,000,000) to seventy-five-million (75,000,000) killed between 1949 and today.

The People’s Paradise of good old North Korea seems like Disneyland by comparison, though of course that unhappy land had far fewer people to murder to begin with, so you can’t blame them for not competing with the big boys. Nonetheless, an estimated three-million and up (3,000,000+) murdered one way or another isn’t bad.

Cambodia, under fun-loving Pol Pot, managed to do almost as well, with over two-million-six-hundred-thousand (2,600,000+) murdered, but most of those were murdered pretty horrifically. (Note for research: is there a way to murder one’s citizens wholesale that is not horrific?)

Afghanistan and Vietnam both come in at around one-million-seven-hundred-thousand (1,700,000) people murdered by their respective Communist regimes.

Ethiopia managed to kill over one-million-three-hundred-thousand (1,300,000+) people, some by active means, some by starvation.

The list of communist countries where death has had a field day continues, with staggering numbers: Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Angola, Cuba, what used to be known as East Germany…

We live in an age when enormous numbers are the norm. A million dollars today is chump change; if you ain’t got a billion, you ain’t got nothing. A thousand miles from New York to Kansas City is an easy jaunt when you think of 33.9-million miles to Mars. It’s no big deal to add another trillion dollars to the deficit. But those numbers listed above represent human beings, people like you and me, lives and loves, hopes and dreams and infinite possibilities, all gone, wiped out in the name of a perverted vision of an artificial and impossible concept of man being something other than what he was, is, and always will be.

Name a communist country that has thrived and prospered with human rights and justice for all. Just one. Call me when you think of it.

Share Button

Wheelchairs

November 4th, 2017 18 Comments

 

This past August, when the great Jerry Lewis died, I wrote about my admiration for that extraordinary man and his tireless fundraising efforts on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Muscular dystrophy is one of those diseases that rarely make the headlines or the evening news, in part because it is so relatively uncommon. Illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s… The list of loss and heartache is long, too long, and society very naturally has to perform its own version of triage and allocate resources accordingly.

In addition to relatively small numbers, muscular dystrophy rarely makes the news precisely because advances come so slowly, so agonizingly slowly, and what works for one will almost never work for all, because there are so many variations. Look at an alphabetical listing of the many different kinds of muscular dystrophy; only the letters J, Q, and V are not represented, almost one hundred varieties in all, with sub-categories within each one, usually indicating variations in severity. And there are even more that have no names because they have yet to be properly identified.

My daughter’s variation is Facioscapulohumeral (FSHD), so called because it most frequently affects the muscles of the face (facio), the shoulder area (scapula), and the upper arm (humeral). But that’s not truly accurate. It can and frequently does affect far more; in my sweet Kat’s case it began early on to affect her ability to walk, targeting the muscles of the hip and lower leg especially.

I have a memory from many years ago, while she was still a teenager, of going to meet her at the Los Angeles airport and watching her walk toward me, struggling to make each step, trying to use her will to dominate her legs, fighting so desperately to retain a measure of autonomous mobility. It was not to be.

FSHD has taken much. What it has not taken and cannot take is her ready—and sometimes frightening—intelligence, her sweetness, her indomitable will, her lively interest in the world around her, in people (her friends are many and disparate), books, and living her life as independently and productively as possible. (She edited my book, Dancing with the Dead, admirably correcting my creative spelling, catching dropped words and other errors, and correcting my fanciful attempts at Spanish.) She has a loving partner who matches her in intelligence, and she works steadily.

But now she needs help.

Our medical system is in disarray. It was before Obamacare, which didn’t improve it, and it appears poised to become even less functional now under whatever system may or may not replace it. But it would be both churlish and unfair of me to blame our health-care system for Kat’s current troubles. A corollary of the rareness of anything is cost. Gold costs more than lead, rubies more than garnets. Relatively few people need motorized wheelchairs of the complexity of those needed by muscular dystrophy patients, so while those wheelchairs exist, the cost is exorbitant: think the cost of a brand-new, top-of-the-line, one-ton pickup with all the bells and whistles; think the cost not so long ago of a nice, middle-income house.

She has insurance that covers some of the cost, but there are certain things, features that would make her life much easier and give her more autonomy, and those things insurance will not cover. To that end, Kat has established a GoFundMe account (https://www.gofundme.com/w96dm-help-me-buy-a-new-wheelchair). I understand we all have our troubles, and we all have our own financial burdens these days, but if you can help, you would be helping a remarkable young lady. And that’s my objective opinion, not the proud parent talking. Thank you.

Share Button

At the Movies: Maudie

October 31st, 2017 5 Comments

 

Darleen dragged me off to see a movie I hadn’t heard about, nor did I particularly want to see it when she tried to explain what it was about. But it was clearly something that was important to her and—let’s face it—there aren’t all that many movies even made these days for people over forty inches in height, so we went to see Maudie.

Part of the reason I wasn’t particularly wild with desire to see it was that Darleen made the mistake of telling me about a review she had read in The New York Times. I compounded her mistake by actually paying attention and imaging, erroneously, the Times might have something intelligent to say. After we saw Maudie, I was so stunned by the complete disconnect between the movie and the review that I took the time to read of bunch of reviews in some other major papers and magazines, and before I give you my own reaction to the movie, let me fill you in on what I read so that you too, gentle reader, will never trust anyone or anything other than your own opinion. That includes me.

A quick synopsis of what I read in various mainstream publications:

The opening is so boring and bleak that the only reason to bother sitting through it is the performances of Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke;

The opening is the best part of the movie, which is only redeemed after that by the performances of Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke;

The director (Aisling Walsh) and writer (Sherry White) wisely don’t adhere to the reality of Maud Lewis’ life;

The director (Aisling Walsh) and writer (Sherry White) might have created a better movie by sticking closer to the truth of Maud Lewis’ life instead of going for commercial success;

The directing is a masterpiece of subtle understatement, wisely staying out of the way and not trying to impose theatrical conventions on the story;

The directing is uninspired and vacillates between the irreconcilable extremes of Maud Lewis’ life;

The score was hauntingly beautiful and understated;

The score was pushy and inappropriate.

I have used my own words here, obviously, but essentially stuck to the essence of what was written.

And then there were the snarky, Snidely Whiplash comments within the reviews, as if each critic had his or her own personal animosities they wanted to air, the most egregious one dismissing Kari Matchett’s lovely turn as the vacationing New Yorker who basically discovered Maud Lewis as “Cate Blanchette doing Katherine Hepburn.”

Yet, to be fair, all these critics grudgingly praised the film and especially the performances of Hawkins and Hawke.

For my part, I was absolutely blown away by everything to do with Maudie.

For those of you who don’t know who Maud Lewis was (I didn’t), she was essentially a Canadian Grandma Moses, an untrained folk artist, whose cheerful and colorful depictions of rural life in Nova Scotia caught the attention of the world.

That’s the sanitized version. It’s true, but as with all human affairs, the truth was rather more difficult: a life that was mostly very grim, very hard, and very unforgiving. Whatever the reality was or was not is unimportant here. This is a movie and should be judged solely on its merits as a movie, and on that basis, it knocks the ball right out of the park.

Everything starts with the script. Written by Sherry White, a Canadian actress and writer I had never heard of, the script is as spare as it should be, considering she is writing about a shy and reticent lady married to an almost non-verbal man, but within that framework Ms. White manages to balance beauty and brutality, laughter and tears, the physical fragility of her heroine and the indomitable resilience of her spirit. There are lovely touches of humor and hope in the bleakness of these two people’s extremely circumscribed lives, but I confess I had to take my glasses off and wipe them more than once.

Directed by another lady I had never heard of, Aisling Walsh, an Irish director who managed to balance the widely disparate elements of the story with remarkable grace, and who had the sensitivity to allow two immensely gifted actors to bring their characters to life, even when that life sometimes took them off-script. Ms. Walsh also did an exquisite job of capturing the harsh beauty of the environment that inspired Maud Lewis, a job that must have been exceptionally difficult: filming in cold weather is fraught with challenges, from fogged-up lenses to frozen batteries that can no longer power the cameras, to freezing cast and crew members. And much of the film takes place in different seasons, something that must have brought its own challenges. Kudos to her.

And then the performances! Oh, my. There isn’t a false note or bad lick from anyone anywhere in the film, but it is Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins who simply took my breath away. Actors choose projects for many varied reasons, but the challenges inherent in any given role are the primary lures for actors who have confidence in their own abilities. How do you find and convey the wisdom and humor in a tiny, fragile, deformed, possibly limited lady whose only means of real expression was through her art? Sally Hawkins does it.

If you like the kinds of action/adventure movies that depend so heavily on stunts and special effects, Maudie is almost certainly not going to be your cup of tea. But if you are interested in your fellow man, if the hidden bits and pieces of the human psyche that we know are there in all of us but that we so rarely see, if William Blake’s world in a grain of sand and Heaven in a wildflower, if those things appeal to you more than gun fights and car chases, you will love this movie. No matter what conflicting nonsense the damned critics spout.

Share Button

The Reason Why

October 23rd, 2017 27 Comments

 

I received the following comment from a reader:

“I find it disgusting that some people have to voice their opinions with threats. With social media that seems to be more and more the case. Would most of these people say these things to a person’s face? I also want to say that being a Canadian I am more liberal in my views although I would never put someone down because of more conservative views. I would never, nor do I know of any other Canadian, who would vote Republican.  Republicans are far too much to the right for most Canadians. What I am wondering is why a lot of Americans feel so strongly about the right to bear arms.  I realize that it is a right in your Constitution and that we should fight not to have rights taken from us. I hear many Americans say that they need to protect themselves. From what?  As a Canadian I am not given the right to have a concealed weapon in my purse and I am 100 per cent okay with that. I feel, just as you do, that I live in a free country. I hear that it is to empower yourselves in case there is an uprising with the government. Really? I have never feared my government nor the head of state of Canada, the Queen. Whenever I am on holiday in Florida I also think in the back of my mind “many of these people could have guns on them”. This is not a reassuring feeling. I do also realize that the majority of you are carrying guns for protection and peace of mind and are not about to shoot me while I’m shopping at Target. As a Canadian I actually feel safer at home.  I guess I just want you, or your readers, to explain to me why you feel so passionately about guns and the right to carry one?”
Nancy Ontario Canada

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for asking a very reasonable question. I won’t go into the Republican versus Democrat issue, because that is a separate topic and relates to completely different views on what kind of government is best for America, views that were, once, possibly, long ago, during a brief and halcyon moment immediately after our revolution, debated with courtesy and respect for the other man’s opinion, in a gracious and honest attempt to reach what both sides knew must ultimately be a compromise. Them days is long gone.

But as to the right to bear arms, I am delighted to try and explain our uniquely American outlook on the God-given right to self-defense.

First, we must accept that self-defense is a God-given right, something no government can take away from you. Throughout all of man’s history, from the earliest known records of the Mesopotamian civilizations, men have always gone armed and usually in groups, precisely to be able to defend themselves. It was only with the rise of unprecedented wealth created by the industrial revolution that people in Western civilizations began to relax a little and stopped wearing swords or carrying guns for the first time, but during America’s colonial days, weapons were a fact of life and, in rural areas, of survival.

(An anti-gun history professor at Emory University, Michael Bellesiles, was awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2001 for his book, Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, purportedly showing that firearms were relatively scarce in colonial America, and therefore proving the historical construct for the individual right to keep and bear arms was a bogus invention of a gun industry pandering to wingnuts like me who wanted to justify their strange obsession with guns. Obviously, I am taking liberties here, because I honestly don’t know, nor does anyone else, what Mr. Bellesiles’ motivations were, but while his book was initially, gleefully, accepted by gullible and eager anti-gun types and the virulently anti-gun media, his purported “scholarship” was almost immediately called into question by legitimate historians and scholars, with the result that within a year, the prize was rescinded and he was fired from Emory. I mention this incident only to show that, unlike Michael Bellesiles, I am not making things up when I say that owning and carrying guns has been a tradition in America since before it was America.)

Understand that our founding fathers, the men who initiated and spearheaded our revolution and subsequently created as close as we are likely to get to an ideal democratic republic, were men who decided to revolt treasonously against the crown precisely because they felt they were being crushed by a monarchy that neither cared for them nor for the colonies, except as a source of revenue and geographic expediency. There is much debate about what the final straw was, but the embattled farmers who stood by the rude bridge that arched the flood and fired the shot heard round the world (Ralph Waldo Emerson is rolling in his grave for how I’ve mangled his poem) were there specifically because they had received intelligence that the British army was coming to confiscate their weapons. That’s worth remembering.

So, America had a tradition of keeping and bearing arms even before it was America, and unlike Canada, which is still technically part of the United Kingdom as a parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy, America had to fight for her freedom, enduring enormous hardship and great loss of life in pursuit of a dream of equality and autonomy.

Even the western expansion of our two countries was radically different: American settlers and the American government fought battle after bloody battle against various indigenous tribes (and routinely and serenely disregarded treaty after treaty, which is why pro-Second Amendment types frequently and ironically say, “Of course you can trust the government. Just ask an Indian.”) while Canadian settlers relied upon their government (the Mounties specifically, if memory serves) to broker peace treaties instead of waging war. (Perhaps a better and more humane strategy, but all those Canadian treaties worked far better for the settlers than for the native tribes.)

I’m not trying to praise or condemn either one of our separate histories here: I’m just pointing out that there are historical differences between America and Canada and that those historical differences are reflected in our different attitudes toward self-defense today. Canadians, judging by the ones I know personally, by statements like yours, and by the accounts I read in local papers and saw on the local news during the three-plus months I worked in Edmonton, really believe in their various levels of government, and in their national government especially. Americans, at least conservative (read Republican) Americans, tend to look at their various levels of government with a much more jaundiced and distrustful eye. We also tend to be more self-reliant (for want of a better phrase) from the point of view that we do not expect the government to be there for us when we might like it to be. Anyone who has ever frantically called for the police in a life-threatening emergency knows that, with the best will in the world, law enforcement can never get there as quickly as we need them to be there. (I did it once; my ex-wife did it once. In neither case were the police able to arrive until well after the danger was past. In my ex-wife’s case, she was saved, literally, by the fortuitous and random appearance of a private security guard.) Nor is that the police’s mandate: our courts have ruled that the duty of law enforcement is to protect society in general, not the individual, a ruling that compels law enforcement to try and solve the crime and arrest the bad guys, but not to prevent the crime from happening. And, realistically, how could they?

So, while you, as an individual, have the right to defend yourself, just as every individual in the wide world has the right to defend himself, only in America is that right codified in our Bill of Rights, and spelled out to specifically mention arms. Not only is it codified, but it is given the honor of second place, preceded only by the rights of freedom of religion, expression, press, peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, all lumped together under Amendment One.

Even a cursory glance at the writings of the founding fathers, their letters amongst themselves, their diaries, and specifically and most importantly what we refer to as the Federalist Papers (a series of essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay), shows that they considered the armed individual to be a necessary requisite to balance the power of any government. Our anti-gun politicians and the media keep spouting fatuous nonsense such as, Nobody needs a (fill in the blank) to go duck hunting. But no kind of hunting is ever mentioned anywhere in the Federalist papers or any other writings. What is mentioned, repeatedly, is the right to self-defense, and the importance of an armed populace to keep a government from becoming too enamored with itself and taking liberties with individual rights. Think it can’t happen? Read your history. I won’t bother listing the all advanced, civilized, well-educated countries that descended into murderous chaos when their governments came under the thrall of leaders with evil in their hearts. It has even happened—on a very small scale—right here in America; the reason it hasn’t happened on a larger scale is precisely because an armed populace would, and more importantly, could, rise up.

So, what do I and other Americans, feel we have to defend ourselves against? Evil and stupidity and mental illness exist everywhere, and no legislation in the world will ever stop them. Fortunately, they exist in minuscule amounts, and are greatly outnumbered by good and kindness and selflessness, but they do exist. I have used a handgun to defend my life and the life of one of my sons. I have used a rifle to defend myself and my late hunting partner from a bear. Even our Center for Disease Control (CDC), an agency which has not had a traditionally pro-gun stance (to put it mildly), stated in a report commissioned by former and virulently anti-gun president Barack Obama, that “defensive gun uses by victims” [skip] “range from 500,000 to more than 3-million per year.”

Does that mean that 500,000 to 3-million times a year law abiding Americans whip out their gats and throw slugs around? Of course not. In my case, I never even got the pistol out of its holster; just the act of reaching for it caused the two men to spin around and jump back in their van. Usually (and countless studies and statistics prove this) just the presence of a firearm resolves potentially violent criminal situations without a shot ever being fired, thank God. Nor is the average person likely to go to places where bears will regard him as the first course of this evening’s dinner, but rabid animals and aggressive and out of control dogs seriously injure thousands of people every year.

Obviously, as someone who has been around firearms practically all my life, I have a very different feeling about guns than you or anyone who is unfamiliar with them. Not long ago, driving through Arizona, where constitutional carry is the law, I stopped in a big-box store and saw two men carrying sidearms openly (in holsters outside their clothes) and identified several others who were clearly carrying concealed sidearms. My immediate reaction was one of safety, of (to paraphrase Mr. T in The A Team): “I pity the fool who starts trouble in here.” But that’s a result of my knowing that guns are inanimate objects, tools that do not cause bad behavior or discharge by themselves. I quite understand that urban people who have never been around guns, let alone seen or handled them, might respond with fear, but always remember: there is far more good in the world than evil, so if you are in a state where law abiding citizens may legally carry firearms, take comfort in knowing that if evil should raise its head and see a man with a gun on his hip, evil is likely to retract its head and leave quietly for other venues. If that doesn’t happen, at least there is someone around who has the means to take care of the situation while you wait for the police to arrive.

Share Button

Another Reason for the Second Amendment

October 18th, 2017 16 Comments

Two recent atrocities came together in an unlikely nexus.

The first was the horror in Las Vegas. The second was the horror in Hollywood with disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein.

The unlikely nexus is Dana Loesch (pronounced “lash”), the very beautiful conservative talk-radio host and NRA spokesperson. Since the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Ms. Loesch has received so many threats that she has been compelled to sell her home and move. The context of the nexus is that these threats are not just the usual death threats of the extremist looney-tunes on the far left to shoot her (no irony there), though there were plenty of those, but that there were apparently also many sexual threats, primarily to rape her to death.

Sexual abuse such as Harvey Weinstein’s, whether groping, masturbation, or rape, is not about sex. It’s about power, and I find it fascinating that the very sickest of the sick peaceful anti-gun types would use sexual threats in an attempt to intimidate Ms. Loesch.

Rape has been used by men as domination device since the dawn of time. It makes no difference whether it’s by sick and sleazy individuals like Harvey Weinstein, or by armies as a weapon of war, or by male convicts against other male convicts: it’s not about sex; it’s about power. And with that in mind, to find that the radical far-left would be so completely blatant is very revealing.

Radical progressive college professors and students have said, and proven, they consider violence acceptable if it prevents other people from saying things and presenting ideas the professors and students do not want to hear or see presented, First Amendment be damned. But to add the threat of such a crude and disgusting form of dominance, in an attempt to silence ideas and beliefs anti-gunners do not agree with, provides very effective proof of precisely why we need the right to keep and bear arms.

Share Button

Oh, Yes!

October 10th, 2017 9 Comments

Darleen (above) as the stewardess of my dreams.

A friend of Darleen’s sent a link (http://dustyvideobox.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Horror%20at%2037000%20Feet%20%281973%29) to a British blog about a movie Darleen made back in 1973. The blog is very entertaining and has a lot of very enticing photographs of my beautiful wife. You tell by glancing at the photo above just why the blogger was so smitten by her.

Share Button

NFL Sponsors

September 28th, 2017 12 Comments

On another site where my blog gets posted, not this one, I received an ad hominem attack in response to my blog about the NFL. Curiously enough, the attack had more to do with my having once made my living as an actor than anything else, the implied reasoning being that because of my charmed life (and perhaps, indeed, compared to many, my life has been charmed in some very important ways) I couldn’t possibly know or understand what it is like for black people in black communities to be targeted by law enforcement.

I made it abundantly clear in my post that I have no interest in anecdotal evidence, neither mine nor anyone else’s. Anecdotal evidence can always be found to support any side of any argument, and your individual experience is no more valid as universal evidence than my individual experience. The conclusions I have reached are based on statistical evidence from our nation’s most highly regarded impartial source. But let me ignore the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and I will instead quote findings of The Washington Post, the newspaper that runs neck and neck with The New York Times for title of most liberal paper in America.

According to the Post, out of 963 people shot by police in 2016, 233 were black and, again according to the Post, the vast majority of those were armed. Sixteen black males who were shot were classified as unarmed. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be shot by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be shot by a police officer. In the past ten years, black males have constituted 42% of all cop-killers, even though they represent only 6% of the population.

If you don’t trust the Washington Post, a number of recent academic studies have produced similar results. I am referring to Harvard, to Washington State University, to an independent economist, and to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), which describes itself as “…an independent, nonprofit organization merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and nations around the world.”

The PIRE found that a civilian’s chance of being shot by the police following an arrest or traffic stop is unconnected to race; the chances are equal for both black and white.

The economist, Ted Miller, also found the chances of lethal force being used are equal for black and white.

The Washington State University study found that whites were three times more likely to be shot than blacks.

Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that police officers were 24% less likely to shoot a black suspect than a white one, 47% less likely to fire their sidearm without first being attacked if the suspect was black rather than white, and that black and white victims of police shootings were equally likely to have been armed.

The Center for Policing Equity, a 501(c)3 think tank, found that with violent felony arrests, white suspects were more than twice as likely to be victims of lethal force by law enforcement as black suspects.

Those are some studies that present one point of view, but there are also at least as many studies that seem to come to the exact opposite conclusion. However, I will not cite most of them, because:

—there was clear and explicit bias in some; e.g., citing a Black Lives Matter study would be like citing Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety on Second Amendment issues;

—some studies were clearly skewed by deliberately ignoring readily available evidence to bolster a specific point of view, or by opening or closing valid parameters, used in other studies, to alter conclusions, e.g., classifying anyone under the age of 21 as a child, or ignoring racial crime disparities;

—or because the focus of the study was so narrow (a single small-to-medium sized town) that it is not applicable to establishing a nation-wide trend.

But I will mention three in particular.

A UC Davis study found “significant bias” in the killing of unarmed black men versus unarmed white men, particularly in large metropolitan areas with low median incomes, high black population, and high financial inequality.

The same Roland Fryer cited above, found that although police were less likely to shoot a black suspect, they were more likely to use non-lethal force.

And the New York Times carried a story about a study by the same Center for Policing Equity cited above, that reached the exact opposite conclusion cited above, this time stating, “African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.” (I am quoting the NY Times there, not the study.)

Perhaps the reference was to non-lethal force, but I have neither the expertise nor the time to do the research to explain why the same organization could find completely opposing conclusions, so you pay your money and take your pick. But again, I emphasize that none of these contradictory studies reflect any nationwide trend, or plot, or coordinated form of discrimination or oppression, and disrespecting the symbols of an entire nation seems a poor and offensive way to register displeasure over the actions of individual towns or police departments.

I would also point out, that according to the FBI, while blacks commit most of the violent crimes, their victims are predominately other blacks, which does not speak well of local law enforcement in “large metropolitan areas with low median incomes, high black population, and high financial inequality.” Chicago leaps to mind. But it does not reflect badly on the nation as a whole.

But all of that is beside the point that I was trying to make. My primary argument, as I stated in my original post, is not the facts of law enforcement, nor the perceptions of football players black or white, that I object to. Rather, I object to a double standard by the NFL, a sort of cherry-picking, if you will, of the right to freedom of expression. Contrary to a popular email making the rounds of the internet, there is no rule on page 62 or 63 or any other page of the NFL rule book dictating etiquette for players during the national anthem. There is, however, a separate “game operations manual” that does cover etiquette during the playing of the national anthem, but it is phrased in terms of “may” and “should,” not “will” or “must,” so there is no basis for anyone, including President Trump, to call for the firing of players.

There is, however, a basis for disagreeing with the injection of divisive politics into any game: football and other sports are meant to be unifying events, with all the players striving for a common goal of victory for their team, and all the fans routing for victory for their favorite, and that can rightly be considered a paradigm for the unifying common goal of love of country. Beyond that, for the NFL to align itself with a divisive action by certain players, while forbidding other actions (honoring murdered police officers, honoring the victims of 9/11) by other players, is not only wrong in its support of division, but wrong in its inequality. It is very akin to the moronic anti-thought of Antifa and certain extreme college progressives who claim the right to freedom of speech should be open only to them. It would certainly seem the players kneeling on the field in protest of inequality should be able to recognize the inequality of their organization’s decision on this matter.

Here, for those of you who believe in America more than football, is a list of the NFL’s major sponsors. Profits drive the NFL, and lowered revenue will accomplish more than angry words.

Anheuser-Busch

Includes anything named Budweiser or Bud. Also Michelob, Rolling Rock, Busch, Shock Top, Natural, Johnny Appleseed, Landshark Lager, as well as the micro-breweries Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Blue-Point, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewery, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone Brewing, Karback Brewing, and Wicked Weed Brewing. It also includes the malt liquors King Cobra, Hurricane, and Spykes.

Barclaycard USA

A credit card company that is part of Visa, and partners with Mastercard and American Express in ways I’m not smart enough to understand.

Bose

Bose is a privately-owned company, so short of boycotting its products (easy for me to do), it might be hard to bring financial pressure to bear on them.

Bridgestone

Actually a Japanese company, Bridgestone also owns Firestone, Bandag (a re-treading company), and manufactures bicycles and golf equipment.

Campbell’s Soup Company

Campbell also owns Pepperidge Farm, Wolfgang Puck Soups, Garden Fresh, Prego, Pace Foods, Arnott’s Biscuits, V-8, Swanson, Bolthouse Farms, Franco-American, Plum Baby, Raguletto, and many other brands overseas.

Castrol

Castrol includes Penzoil.

Courtyard Marriott

A division of Marriott International. There are other hotels.

Dairy Management, Inc.

Proving that even farmers, who are basically the salt of the earth, can get hooked up with the wrong people.

Dannon

The yogurt company makes a variety of yogurts whose names either begin with “Dannon” or have some variation of “Dan.”

Extreme Networks

It’s a networking company based out of San Jose, CA, that builds, designs, and installs ethernet network computer products. I have now exhausted my intelligence about the company and the ethernet.

FedEx

Send your package via UPS

Frito-Lay

The snack food company is owned by Pepsi, and they manufacture a slew of snack foods such as Lay’s, Frito’s, Dorito’s, Ruffles, Cheetos, Sun Chips, Tostitos, Rold Gold, and Funyuns.

Gatorade

This is also owned by Pepsi (what food product isn’t?) and sells a range of drinks and energy bars that all have some variation of “Gator” in their names.

Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai also owns Kia and Genesis Motors.

Mars Snackfood

Oh, boy. They own the Wrigley Company (chewing gum) as well as a huge selection of candy products, including, but not limited to, 3 Musketeers, Bounty, Lifesavers, M&M, Skittles, Snickers, Twix, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Milky Way, pet products such as Eukanuba, Iams, Nutro Products, Pedigree, Whiskas, Sheba, and a lot more stuff I’ve never even heard of.

Microsoft

Yeah, good luck avoiding that one. I suppose, if you’re more computer-savvy than I, you could switch to Apple.

Nationwide

The insurance giant, another vast conglomerate that owns more companies than you can shake a stick at, and certainly more than I can list.

News America

This is a marketing company that is owned by News Corporation (News Corp), which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdock, as in the Fox News Rupert Murdock. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Murdock’s conservative beliefs outweigh his desire for profit.

Papa John’s

The pizza company. Make your own.

Pepsi

The mega-conglomerate that owns just about everything you can put it your mouth, including Aquafina, Tropicana, Lipton, 7-Up, Propel, Mountain Dew, Stolichnaya, California Pizza Kitchen, as well as Wilson Sporting Goods, North American Van Lines, and scores of other products. Pepsi also has some kind of partnership deal with Starbucks.

Procter & Gamble

Everything that isn’t owned by Pepsi is owned by Proctor and Gamble, including a bunch of the stuff you will need after eating Pepsi products, stuff like Crest, Oral-B, Fix-O-Dent, Scope, Pepto-Bismol, Charmin, Pampers, Tide, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Bounty, Olay, Pantene, Mr. Clean… The list goes on and on.

Quaker

Among a slew of breakfast cereals, including Mr. T Cereal, Quaker also owns the Aunt Jemima brand.

Verizon

Yeah, that Verizon.

Visa

It’s always better not to use a credit card anyway.

USAA

This is the financial service, banking, and insurance company that bangs the drum in its commercials for its support of military families, in part because it was founded by a group of Army officers, and in part because it targets military families in particular. It will be interesting to see if NFL-related profits outweigh the company’s conscience (not likely) or, more importantly, its image. It’s hard to wave the flag while you’re disrespecting it.

Share Button
Top of Page