Saturday, July 4, 2015

Crazy George

"Karzy George" Henderson is a professional cheerleader. He bangs on a drum, and cajoles fans of professional sports teams to heights of frenzy unavailable to mere mortals.

"Crazy George" Takei is an actor. He is gay, married, and takes himself very seriously. As well he should. He and his parents were interred during WWII, because they are Japanese-Americans. They lost years of freedom, and much of their property, having done nothing more nefarious than spring from the wrong gene pool.

Mr. Takei is forthright in his belief that his sexual preference should have no bearing of how he is treated. (That is the position of Bikecopblog.) Consequently, when the Supreme Court discovered the right of same-sex couples to marry (much in the same way Columbus "discovered" the New World) he was justifiably happy. He had worked for many years persuading others of the human rights aspects of marriage laws open to all. He was ready to celebrate, and it was his right to do so.

The moment got away from him, and he decided (for some reason) to comment on Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas's dissent. Rather than point out places where Justice Thomas's scholarship might be found wanting, Crazy George made reference to the Justice's race. He chose poorly.

There is, however, an easy solution.

Dear Justice Thomas,

In the immediate aftermath of the Obergefell decision, I offered a public pronouncement concerning your dissent. It was the product of emotion, of years of pent up frustration that I, and others like me, were not afforded rights we believed were not the government's to withhold. I spoke without considering the price you have paid to be where you are.

I apologize. I did not mean what I said to reflect on your integrity as a jurist, or as an American. I am available, if you wish, to meet personally. Perhaps, in doing so, we can find common ground.

Yours,

George Takei

Maybe, in this unfortunate situation, we could all learn a lesson in humility, generosity and hope.

Out, On A Limb

I Think That The Soldiers Are My Role Models , Because They fight for our country. They Fight For The Right To Live, Right To Have Freedom, The Right To Have An Education. The Reason We're Probably here is because Of The Dear Soldiers Who Risk Their Lives , For Ours.

 Allyson Marie  

I was preoccupied.

The first half of my bike ride to Confluence was taken up with obsessing about something I'd read on Facebook. I know, I know. "Really?! Facebook?" Well, yeah.

There is currently a tiff among various Keyboard Rangers concerning a sign available on line. Someone can order something to put on their lawn that identifies the resident as a combat veteran. It asks for some consideration with regard to fireworks. The mere appearance of this on the goofysphere has turned the virtual water red with blood. Elite members of the "phony tough and crazy brave" have engaged brain (or at least fingers to keys) abhorring this display of...

I have no real dog in this fight. The closest I came to combat as a Naval Reservist was the night I stood patiently in line for a beer at the Pensacola O Club. My turn had arrived, when an arm, mug clutched in meaty hand, was thrust over my shoulder onto the bar. I turned to inform this dipshit that he could wait his goddamn turn. He was a Commander, dressed in the blue flight uniform of a Blue Angel. His mug said "The Boss." Oops. After you, sir.

 But, I digress. The author of the piece I'd read on FB broke the argument down into three distinct groups. Each of them were assholes, he surmised. All except for those who agreed with him, who were also probably assholes for not doing their own thinking. 

I spent my time riding down to Confluence in Denver thinking of the pithy things I would write, the rapier-like wit I would employ and how this veteran's ravings would be putty in my hands. I dined on a hot dog, had my picture taken next to a flag, and started home.

A couple rode ahead of me on the bike path. For some reason, even after riding most of Squaw Pass yesterday, I had legs. I closed the gap steadily. 

He was rugged and handsome, strong on his bike. She was tall, fit and tanned. They had the easy grace of athletes, turning the pedals effortlessly. They looked the type that usually blew past me with a kind word, disappeared around the next bend and were never seen again. They chatted casually, her brunette pony tail flitting across the light purple sleeveless jersey. I approached, preparing to announce the pass.

She had a prosthetic left leg.

The spoon thing at the end was clipped in. This was not an afterthought. Cycling was one of her sports, and she had adapted. Perhaps she had lost her limb in an accident, or to disease. Perhaps it had been a birth thing. And, perhaps, she had lost it in uniform.

An IED is indiscriminate. It does not intentionally spare the attractive young woman and decapitate the man next to her. It does not know, nor care, that the limb it takes is attached to a female cyclist who will return from the battlefield to her friends, her country and her road bike. It is as likely in 2015 that she lost her leg in a foreign country, in combat, as here. No matter how quick I was, I was not high speed enough to pass her.

Behind me, gears changed. A quick look - I expected to be passed. Other cyclist had come to similar conclusions and had fallen into line. When the couple turned toward Mile High Stadium we disbursed. 

A Veteran's right to have a little bit of consideration on July 4th? Who knew. It was a wonderful day to be an American.
  

Who Rules?


Philadelphia in summer. Perfect.

I was born in Philadelphia, and lived in suburban Southampton until I was nine. Summers were muggy, buggy and, pre-central air, best lived at a modest pace. July vacations involved driving north, to visit relatives in Michigan, or to camp in Canada. Pool, lakes, trips to Atlantic City - they were refuge from air so thick it had to be chewed before inhaling. In the stuffy confines of the local rec center, a dime would buy a cold bottle of Coke, an exquisite delight to offset the clammy t-shirt clinging to dripping-wet torso.

It could have been no different for the men gathered to discuss independence from England. No box fans to plug in, no AC cooling torsos and temperaments. Among them were the Colony's foremost experts on governance, it's most intemperate firebrands and - let's be honest - it's biggest egos. Their purpose, while seditious and treasonous, was also truly enlightened. Although many of the notions of government the Declaration of Independence stated had been lifted from other documents, it was the first time they had been brought together as the founding principles of a new land. Underlying all of them was a notion unique among the nations then existing.

America's founders did not toil over the question of who would rule. They discussed how the people would determine who governed. The concept is simple, elegant and complicated by everything that makes human beings creative, crass and imperfect. Governments, the Colonials wrote, derive their just powers from the people's consent to it's structures, it's processes and the men and women who occupy the offices. They were no longer subjects of the Crown. They were free citizens of a new nation.

There was one little problem. By signing the parchment, they were agreeing to war against the most powerful military ever assembled. Were there a Las Vegas in 1776 the line surely would have opened heavily favoring the Red Coats. The men affixed their signatures anyway.

Two hundred thirty nine years later we are the descendents, and beneficiaries of their vision. They created a country out of an idea, one that has sustained us in times of plenty, and of desperation. We were built on the notion that a free people are stronger not because we think alike, but because we were free to think as we choose. Our nation began as, and is now, a gift from a generation of inspired thinkers who presented the world with an idea.

Freedom belongs to everyone. Make of it what you can. Preserve it, nurture it. It is a gift you will relinquish only to the future.




Sunday, June 28, 2015

Broken

"I guess the fucking thing is broken." Vincent Gambini (Joe Pesci), My Cousin Vinny (1992)

Today, a commercial rocket intended to bring supplies to the Space Station exploded into about eleventy billion pieces two-ish minutes after launch. Boom.

The "anomaly" began somewhere in the front half of the vehicle. What happened next can only be described as "disappearing up your own asshole." The booster assembly churned furiously on as the rest of the thing disintegrated. Finally, the first stage motors vanished into a cloud of pipes, fairing, yogurt, water bottles and shaving cream. Then, everything fluttered down into the Atlantic like maple leaves in an October breeze.

Mission Control, only minutes before describing the event as the most stupendously stupendous thing all week, was mute. Oh, there had to be a lot of WTF-ing on the command circuits, but nary a "kee-rist" crept out until the long, painful silence was broken by a somber voice.

"This mission has been declared non-nominal."

I'm no rocket scientist. My wife was one, once, but I'm not. But, I think when part of it is supposed to go into orbit, but the whole thing vaporizes itself in one giant bang... Non-nominal?

I'd be more inclined to agree with Vinny.

Going Postal

Two buddies were driving to their favorite hunting grounds. They came to a road sign - "Bear left." So they went home. Author unknown.

Waiting for the brats to cook (no, I wasn't grilling the neighbors) I stumbled across a post on Facebook. Apparently, an appeals court reversed a district court - the DC ruled the Post Office's ban on firearms on Postal property violated the Second Amendment. The Tenth Circuit found in favor of the ban. Well, okay. One need not be overwhelmed with common sense to detect a rule we can all live with.

Dropping off a package, mailing something to my writing instructor... The only time I have a gun with me is when I'm getting the thing done on duty. Nobody seems to care; an armed, uniformed police officer calms a lot of people down (believe it or not). Fine.

Pro tip: Don't take a break from alcohol on a night you intend to read the comments on an FB posting.

I'd guess (based on the small sample I soldiered through before being overcome with anguish) 90% were supportive. They broke somewhat evenly between people affronted by firearms per se (and deeming people who aren't "idiots" and "creepy"), people who now felt safer and anyway it was about goddamn time, and those with horror stories that seemed to involve either close brushes with post office shootings or some free-form associations involving the term "Going Postal."

The remaining ten percent? Some surely suffered from an abysmal case of Nothing Better To Do (which, now that I write that, might include me and this blog entry). Several seemed inclined to be merely contrarian. Finally, an array of frustrated gunfighters bent on shooting it out with terrorists and robbers trotted out the usual "You'll be sorry when" arguments.

Bored, I read the case. It involves a man with a true Western Slope name -Tab Bonidy - who does his snail mail business at the post office in Avon, Colorado. In true latter day cowboy fashion, Tab had no real quarrel with Postal Law, so he thought to leave his shooting iron in his vee-hickle. Except - that was also prohibited. The whole case was about whether he could have a gun in his car in the post office parking lot.

My opinion lurches and sways between laughing until I pee, and being horrified by the whole process. You know why?

Because gun control in this country is too important to cultivate a terminal case of stupid. The conversation about keeping guns out of the hands of assholes who would shoot innocents going to the Post Office, or to church, or to school, should have begun with Columbine (if not before). We endure massacre after massacre without having the serious, grown-up, it will actually do something about it conversation common sense demands. We create signs and symbolism meant to make us feel better. Honestly, does anyone really think a guy bent on emptying his gun into a crowd is deterred by a sign that says it's a misdemeanor to have the gun he's using to commit murder?

Conversely - if you had a gun under your pickup truck's seat when you went to check your PO box, wouldn't you just STFU? Why make a big deal about it? Is it that boring in Avon?

This is a silly, pointless, shameful exercise. Thorough, meaningful background checks based on discovering those things that predict violence must be created. Honest, law-abiding citizens must back off of demanding the right to buy anything they want immediately, so long as there is room on their Master Card. We need to grow the frick up and stop wasting our time about truly peripheral stuff. We're arguing over parking lots and signs?

Keeping guns out of the hands of people who cannot be trusted with them works. Let's figure out how to do that better.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Now I Axe Ya...

"If, even as the price to to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: 'The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity' I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie." Obergefell v. Hodges, Scalia, J, dissenting.footnote 22, (2015).


Needless to say, this has been a tumultuous twenty-four hours at 1 First Street, NE in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court demonstrated, within two distinctly different cases, that it has lost its collective mind.

A brief examination. In a case decided on Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court, announced that the following sentence found in the Affordable Care Act (Ocare): "an Exchange established by the State" actually could be read as saying "by the State and Federal Government." By inserting this additional phrase the Court was able to amend Ocare in such a way as to breathe life into it for yet another term.

The following day, without apparent shame, the CJ wrote:

"But, this Court is not a Legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be." Obergefell v. Hodges, Roberts, CJ, dissenting. (2015), as the Court found a liberty interest in the Constitution supporting gay marriage.

To a casual observer, it might seem that the Chief Justice entertains no real underlying interperative principles as he veers drunkenly (I mean that figuratively, of course) from one side of an argument to the other. But, as has been muttered ruefully by my poor, long-suffering wife, I am not a casual observer. Let me share my analysis.

Roberts has lost his mind.

No, really. Our Constitution, as he pointed out in Obergefell, grants no legislative powers whatsoever to the Court. While certain principles of statutory interpretation allow a court to cure confusing construction, it does not have the power to re-write a law that was carefully drafted to mean precisely what it said. Okay, that's kind of a mouthful. If a legislature writes a law that is unclear (as is a fairly common occurrence), a court can save it. They do this by giving it a reasonable re-reading. So far, so good.

The idiot who helped draft Ocare (the guy who called us stupid, by the way) intentionally included in the law the language about State Exchanges (allowing a tax credit for them, but not Federal exchanges) to coerce States to establish insurance exchanges. Go ask him. But, some states refused to take the bait and policies that would be affordable under the tax credit scheme were suddenly unattractively expensive. Whoops.

Never fear, Johnny Boy and his posse of re-writers to the rescue. Voila! In total. absolute, incredible violation of everything the Founders agreed upon, the Supreme Court of the United States announced a new law. It had not begun its stilted life in the House (because, as the CJ had legislated a couple of years ago, this law contains a tax, not the penalty in the original), had not been passed by either - let alone both - chambers of Congress and had never been signed into law by the President. Not that Mr. O wouldn't have signed the crap out of this bitch.

Okay. So now we get to same-sex marriage. Trigger warning - I totally agree with Justice Kennedy's opinion. Okay, have your WTF moment. I'll wait...

You're back? Dude, here's the thing. In Obergefell they were deciding whether a right exists, not trying to decide what a statute meant. The Founders were reluctant to include the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Why, you ask? Because, when you make a list it seems like you are making a whole list. And, in the law, a list that includes some things (and doesn't say "among these...") is interpreted to be inclusive - that is, it has everything in it that applies. Many of the men who wrote the Constitution said "Seriously?! Who would possibly think that?"

Antonin Gregory Scalia of Trenton, NJ. He is an associate justice of the Supreme Court. He believes that if a right is not found in the Constitution then Congress may determine if it exists. Well, what could possibly go wrong with that idea?

Ultimately, it is the right of a free adult to, as Tony K wrote, order their lives in the manner of their own choosing. Most of us with healthy, rewarding marriages take for granted our right to seek out our partner, develop our relationship and build our lives together. The fact that the person who fits these perimeters is the same gender as us should be of no concern to the government. To decide otherwise is to deprive free men and women of a liberty interest to which they are entitled not by the Constitution, but, as Mr. TJ wrote so many years ago, by the Creator.

You see, inalienable rights are not a creature of government. You have them, I have them... Everyone has them no matter what the Supreme Court says. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is, well...

"To secure these rights, governments are instituted" among free people. This week, the Supreme's decided that a right that goes to the very heart of sharing the gift of life and love with another human being belongs to everyone. That seems not just sensible, but well within the authority of the Supreme Court to decide.

So, how to reconcile the two decisions? Ready for this? On the one hand, they acted without any moral or legal authority at all. They blatantly re-wrote a crappy, poorly-drafted statute passed in defiance of the rules of Congress (with Roberts admitting, and the others joining this sentiment, that it was crappy and passed in violation of the rules of Congress) without the slightest shred of authority from the Constitution. The next day, they did a gutsy, elegant thing in the name of liberty. The first was an exercise in statutory interpretation (that they got badly wrong). The second was a question of whether the liberty to marry free from governmental interference is recognized under the Constitution. That one they got beautifully right.

So, why did I include the above quote from Scalia? I love the man. When he is writing in a snit, it is pure, unadulterated law porn. I can't wait until the First Monday in October!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Playing Catch

[on who the Voice meant by "Ease his pain."]
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): It was you...
Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta): No, Ray. It was YOU.
Field of Dreams (1989)

Noting the passing of composer James Horner.



The breadth of music written my James Horner spans decades of America's favorite movies. From blockbusters like Titanic and its dominating theme (for which he won Oscars), to gentle gems like The Rocketeer, Mr. Horner weaved emotion among the words and scenes crafted by some of the world's leading filmmakers. The accusation that he self-referred...borrowed passages from his own works...only meant re-acquaintance with a cherished friend, the whisper of a comfortable memory. His music helped create tension, and celebrate improbable triumph in Apollo 13. The Perfect Storm score perfectly told the audience that, to paraphrase, the Andrea Gail was so small and the Atlantic was unsurvivable. As the "Fighting 54th," America's first formal African-American brigade closed on Confederate Ft. Wagner in Glory" crescendo after crescendo marked the pitched (and futile) attack that cost half of the men involved.

Horner's music took on a personal quality in Field of Dreams. Haunting, evocative... The strains gracefully captured the wisps of yesteryear and the mists of the great beyond from which Shoeless Joe Jackson and other Golden Age baseball players emerged into the 1980's. The main character's mission, and quest, are propelled by a voice, audible only to him, that whispers "ease his pain." He learns that it is his own heartache, born of his estrangement from the father who died before their relationship could be repaired, that the field was meant to ease. Horner eases us, as well, to the scene where the main character's father, again a young catcher with most of his life ahead of him, is introduced to his ganddaughter. Ray says "Do you want to have a catch?"

Horner helps us process the tears. His music was always there, no matter which boat was sinking, spacecraft soaring or eyes meeting. His was the gift of unlocking emotion in a way that valued the movie goer, treated them not as a manipulated pawn but as a trusted partner. He took us, and the movie characters, on a wonderful examination of our own souls.

Someone was once asked what he would say to a certain famous 18th Century composer, were it possible to communicate with him. "Thank you," was the reply.

Thank you, Mr. Horner.