Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Guns and ammo

This is “promise to liberals” season in the Democratic primaries, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton has any intention to deliver on at least one of her gun control promises, but there are some very common sense solutions out there that can be enacted that will still protect the rights of gun owners from their government and black people from police.

One of these is the concept of the mandatory waiting period for purchase combined with criminal background checks. This is a no-brainer. All tragedies cannot be prevented, but this is a sensible way to limit them. In some locales, the waiting period and background checks are already written into the law, and simply need to be enforced, but this does no good when it is not universal.

Another winning concept is the outright ban on assault rifles. The right to own firearms is not absolute. It certainly does not extend to any type of weapon the manufacturers can dream up. You can’t possess a firearm that shoots a rocket or a nuclear device. Any dispute about this? So now we're just deciding where to draw the line.

The best idea, championed now by Clinton but which I don’t think she actually plans to fight for because it’s an “anti-business” measure, is to end the immunity from liability that gun manufacturers enjoy under a 2005 law.


How can a land of such great opportunity and grand principles be so frequently victimized by gun violence? It's one of the great mysteries... Oh shit, now we're bombing hospitals?


Doctors Without Borders better watch itself. It's one thing to accuse the United States of a war crime, but a Democratic administration during an election cycle? I fear the good doctors are going to get "Nader-ized" by the Democrats if they don't zip it.


Only three days after the U.S. military bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan killed 22 patients and aid workers, the story has already fallen off the front page of the Huffington Post. I wonder if that would be the case if George W. Bush was still president.


Getting a court conviction in the case of an African-American being killed by police is like getting a conviction in the South in the 1950’s and 60’s when a white person killed an African-American. It happens on occasion, but is exceedingly rare.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The charade of reinstatement

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says he'll have a verdict in a Pete Rose reinstatement request by the end of the calendar year, but the consideration period is disingenuous. The first-year boss has already denied a request by the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum to reinstate that all-time great player banned from baseball for gambling in 1921, and just as Fay Vincent and Bud Selig had to deny Rose to effectively preserve the legacy of Bart Giamatti, Manfred has to deny Rose to preserve the legacy of Vincent and Selig.

Rose can't win now because of MLB's greed. Murderers get out of prison in less time than the 26 years Rose has now served in the form of a "lifetime ban" from the game he clearly worships, and to which he has given so much to the fans. The irony is that Major League Baseball didn't have a gambling problem at all when Rose was suspended in 1989, and nobody would come away from the fact of a quarter-century of punishment thinking that baseball was now somehow being too lenient for the crime of betting on baseball, but probably every ballpark today displays multiple advertisements for casinos and/or state lotteries, and lucrative baseball television and radio broadcasts are littered with ads for betting-- on baseball-- in the form of the now-multi-billion dollar industry of daily fantasy sports.

Rose may or may not be reformed, but he's certainly cleaner today than the institution that persists in denying him entry. Manfred might have a hard time keeping a straight face when he makes his announcement regarding Rose's continued discipline, which will likely happen in the month that follows the postseason. When he does, glance down at his podium and take notice of how fat his pockets are.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

My favorite Republican

Republicans have an obvious choice as their presidential nominee. I’m not usually in the business of offering them advice but the top man for the assignment, though he’s not one of the 35 petitioned GOP candidates, is St. Louis Cardinals majority owner Bill DeWitt Jr.

Forget Donald Trump. It’s DeWitt who knows how to run a business. A registered Republican active in party fundraising, he runs an unimpeachable baseball club that serves as the model for all other organizations, headed to the playoffs for the 12th time in 16 years (and not that one-game Wild Card crap either—the real thing, best-of-five or best-of-seven). He seems to have the admiration of his employees from the top rung to the bottom, famous and non-famous. They routinely express that they are treated like family by the DeWitt family. (Bill's son, Bill III, is the team president.) Each year the team outdraws in attendance the population of greater St. Louis, and it typically outdraws nearly all other MLB clubs despite playing in only the 21st largest U.S. television market.

DeWitt had the decency to offer jobs in uniform to Mark McGwire and Jhonny Peralta when they were considered league pariahs because of the use of "performance-enhancing drugs" (*There is no proven link between use of these substances and baseball achievement.) DeWitt presides over a business culture that would never produce a scene like the one seen in Washington D.C. this week between two star players (DeWitt is a true Washington outsider), or the similar scene that erupts at every Trump campaign rally.

DeWitt's skill in fiscal responsibility should be his main selling point to voters. Donald Trump promises a $10 trillion tax cut, but DeWitt, or DeWallet, as he’s known in this respect, has produced a club with the most wins in 2015, and the most wins in the last five years, without the club spending in the top 10 of the 30 clubs. He avoids the popular strategy of bidding for free agents when they are at auction prices, developing talent instead from within, and investing in scouting. DeWitt was a business partner of George W. Bush when Bush’s Texas Rangers hustled the Ballpark at Arlington from Texas taxpayers, but in St. Louis, DeWitt's Busch Stadium III is one of the few majority privately funded MLB stadiums. The deal with the city came with a lot of cushy tax breaks, but DeWitt invested his money again three years ago into the construction of “Ballpark Village,” a stadium-adjacent entertainment complex that has significantly grown the Cardinals’ footprint in an otherwise-thinning downtown St. Louis. DeWitt's group purchased the Cardinals for $150 million almost two decades ago. This year, Forbes appraised the Cardinals outright for $1.4 billion.

The national sports media is bored with DeWitt’s team, despite its 100-59 record this year and 11 division titles (and two Wild Card titles) since DeWitt and his partners bought the team following the 1995 season. All the baseball headlines this summer have been about the Cubs, the Yankees, the Mets, the Nationals, the Blue Jays, the Royals, and the Astros. DeWitt’s Cardinals are “same ole’, same ole’.” Passe. Not worth writing home about. The powerhouse you expected. You know, what the U.S. economy used to be.

Donald Trump inherited his fortune from his father. So did Bill DeWitt Jr., but his inheritance was a comparative pittance built on soda and beer sales at old Sportsman's Park in St. Louis (Browns) and Crosley Field in Cincinnati (Reds). Trump slaps his name on every product he sells. DeWitt prefers staying in the shadows and employs men much more famous than him. In his early business career, Trump settled with the Justice Department over accusations he violated the Fair Housing Act. In his early business career, DeWitt was the batboy for the St. Louis Browns and lent his uniform to the midget slugger Eddie Gaedel for his one and only career plate appearance. Four of Trump's businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. DeWitt made a successful businessman even out of serial loser George W. Bush. Trump denigrates Mexicans. DeWitt has paid Reynosa-born Jaime Garcia over $27 million since 2008 to win 52 games against 31 losses. Trump would build a wall. DeWitt’s outfield wall at Busch Stadium is perfectly distanced from home plate to insure contests fair to both hitters and pitchers, and it features the images of 12 Cardinals greats that have had their uniform number retired by the team. Trump has questioned the birthplace and United States citizenship of President Obama. DeWitt invited President Obama to throw out the first pitch of the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. Trump has ridiculous hair. DeWitt has the hairline that befits a 74-year-old man. Trump destroyed the United States Football League. DeWitt elevates Major League Baseball. Trump got his TV reality show and beauty pageant run off the air by NBC and Univision. DeWitt's team has the highest local TV ratings (7.7) in Major League Baseball. Trump is twice-divorced. DeWitt, despite public perceptions at the time that it would be his downfall, knew exactly when to part company with Albert Pujols.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is the caller there?

This is the must-watch of must-watches-- the 25th anniversary celebration of the Phil Donahue Show from the pre-Letterman Ed Sullivan Theater in 1992.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Catching up

Scott Walker is casting himself as a leader for getting out of the presidential race, but of course, he's just a quitter. A very unpopular quitter. Donald Trump is awful, but my least favorite Republican candidate in the Republican presidential field was Walker. (Ted Cruz is second worst.) The Wisconsin governor's lack of personal appeal I feltl most viscerally. It’s the College Republican thing, I believe.

My least favorite Republican candidate in the Democratic field is Hillary Clinton. And that’s what she is. She was a Republican when she was a Goldwater girl, and she’s a Republican when she’s owned by Goldman Sachs. In-between, her husband gave us NAFTA, mandatory sentencing, "don't ask, don't tell," and the repeal of Glass-Steagall.


I’m currently reading Daniel Schulman’s “Sons of Wichita,” about the Koch Brothers. Very entertaining. I love reading about the personal failings of rich people. My siblings and I have a lot less money than Frederick, Charles, David, and Bill Koch, but our communications with each other is a lot less litigious.


The St. Louis Rams are going to be an interesting case study this year in football fan support. The Los Angeles-bound NFL franchise took in a lot of fans of the visiting Seahawks in the season opener at the Edward Jones Dome. Then the team put up an embarrassing loss to Washington on the road in week two. More games like the one Sunday and home crowds could be very sparse come December.

I’ve stopped rooting for them. Making the playoffs on their way out of town, after nearly a decade and a half of historically-bad football, is not my idea of a feel-good story.


Against all odds, the Cardinals posted their 94th win of the season last night, and that's with 12 more regular-season contests still to play. They’ve gone nearly the entire season without their pitching ace from a year ago, and without their third and fourth place hitters from what was once a formidable hitting lineup. Pitching, pitching, pitching. The story is as old as the sport itself. On Saturday, they clinched their twelfth trip to the postseason in the last 16 years. No foolin'.


Sometimes the realities surrounding the city of St. Louis are too much to bare, but the city has taken ownership of “reality” on your cable box. Bravo’s Andy Cohen hosts the nightly series “Watch What Happens: Live” from in front of a wall that displays a Cardinals cap and an Andy-inspired Cardinals bobblehead. Former Cards All-Star Jim Edmonds and his wife Meghan (a St. Louis native) now anchor the 10th season of the Cohen-produced “Real Housewives of Orange County” on the same channel. Over on BET, St. Louis-based hip-hop star Nelly has now been raising his four children for two seasons in front of the camera on “Nellyville.” Throw in Emmy-winner Jon Hamm, from STL’s John Burroughs High School, and it’s clear that Hollywood has a St. Louis obsession.


My wife and I both have a favorite Jim Edmonds show. Hers is “Orange County.” Mine is the “Missouri Lottery Cardinals Live!” post-game show on Fox Sports Midwest.


Quote of the day: A “Real Housewives” character talking about Jim Edmonds on August 31st, “Jim made a living running into walls. I think he can handle Vicki."

Monday, September 14, 2015

Refugees and Nativism

In an interconnected planet like ours, denying that refugees should become the "burden" of your country makes little sense. Western European countries have been major players in the politics of Syria and the Middle East. That crisis does not exist in a vacuum. It's the same thing in the United States where migrants coming over the Mexican border are made unwelcome by Nativists when the predominant economic issue driving the migration is the ruinous effect of NAFTA on Mexico and Central America's agricultural economy.

I get that these European countries, like Hungary, Germany, and Austria, don't want to have the most welcoming posture for fear that they might become the sole owner of the refugee crisis, but isn't that why we have a European Union? Or is it just for empowering a central European bank and promoting austerity programs for its member states?


For what it's worth, Donald Trump hasn't been pulling a fast one on the American voters so much as he's been pulling one over on the traditional news media. At the center of his professional wrestling-style campaign strategy is the acute understanding that the news media feels the need to treat "both sides" of an argument equally regardless of the individual merits. A bloviating candidate spewing rhetoric endorsed by white identity terrorist groups then morphs into a "serious" presidential contender before our very eyes. Many in the media disown the rhetoric, but they live in fear that they'll be perceived as "advocating an agenda" if they criticize Trump's actual ideas rather than simply the form by which he presents them. Promising to destroy millions of families pales in comparison to inferring that Carly Fiorina is unattractive. When Univision's Jorge Ramos attempted to confront Trump about his WWII/Japanese internment plan-on-steroids to forcibly deport 11 million people of Hispanic descent, the Washington Post called Ramos a "conflict junkie" that had "blurred the line between journalist and activist." According to this popular mindset, unarmed black people being killed by police is also not a problem because not everybody agrees that it is.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The white privilege of armed rebellion

White people have had enough. They're rallying around police, denying that racism is deeply-embedded in American law enforcement, despite the daily stories we now hear-- and even see- thanks to the explosion of social media. For most whites, the form of reactionary protest is internet memes, but for others, it's armed rebellion against the United States.

The Oath Keepers have been in the news a lot this year, rushing to the side of the powerful against the powerless, claiming that their initiative is the opposite but clearly illustrating for the rest of us the two alternating standards of justice in America that exist for whites and blacks. In Ferguson, Missouri, unarmed peaceful protesters, overwhelmingly African-American, had already been met by militarized local "warrior cops" dressed for an afternoon drive through Mosul. When the militia men of the Oath Keepers showed up, ostensibly to "protect Ferguson businesses," wearing battle fatigues, carrying .50-caliber Bushmaster, and planting themselves as snipers on area rooftops, they were welcomed by the murderous local police as the reinforcement they intended to be. Their presence became another effective weapon against peaceful protest. Being white in America is still a pretty sweet deal.

Since denying the right to peaceful petition of the government leads to inevitable violence, the Oath Keepers were offering nothing of value to the scene in Ferguson. The group now claims they will be offering protection to Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Leaders of the organization say they are shielding her from an oppressive federal government because a judge has jailed her for contempt of court for failing to end her personal and public discriminatory practice against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis is a authoritarian government official making in excess of $80,000 a year choosing to deny the court-protected rights of the citizenry in a county that has a median household income of less than $20,000. The Oath Keepers are coming to her defense. You are thinking-- huh? Think of the Oath Keepers then as you do the Ku Klux Klan, founded as it was upon the mission of maintaining order (and racial purity) in the South following the Civil War when the federals, carpetbaggers, and Negras were attempting to slander and malign the Southern way of life.

During the eight-year presidency of Bush 43, American citizens were detained and tortured, in complete secrecy, and the FBI secretly infiltrated peaceful anti-war groups acting on free American soil, including a gardening collective in Iowa City, Iowa. Protesters at the 2004 Republican and Democrat political conventions were rounded into "free speech" cages. Yet the George Zimmermans of the nation that would coalesce to become the Oath Keepers apparently didn't identify a Constitutional crisis until a black man became president. The group was founded in 2008.

Rap artist Killer Mike believes it's time for his fellow African-Americans to arm themselves, and he says he joined the NRA symbolically to that end, despite the historical racism of the gun-rights organization. A proliferation of gun-ownership among blacks would create an institutional challenge for the white supremacists and separatists that make up the rosters of groups like the Oath Keepers. Killer Mike points out that the CIA introduced crack cocaine into black neighborhoods in the 1980s, destroying those communities, and then gun buy-back programs encouraged law-abiding black people to surrender their guns. He believes those people made a mistake, living in a country that was founded and is still defined by armed rebellion.

In an interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS earlier this year, the rapper born Michael Render said that he wished the congregants of Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston had been armed. His words, "I wished there would’ve been some deterrent; I wish the angel Gabriel had really been in front of that door to stop that man. I can’t tell you that I want them to be armed in church. I can tell you that the Nation of Islam frisks everyone that walks in that door."

This is where black people stand today in America, where their collective patience and capacity for forgiveness surpasses all reasonable expectation-- and frankly all logic as well. In May, a shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas-- white and Latino-- broke out, involving more than 200 bikers from five different gangs. A shootout with police entailed, and nine were killed, some by police, and 170 arrested, but the arrestees were treated with respect. In the aftermath, police have been threatened anonymously with grenades and car bombs.This was only one weekend after a group of black children in a suburb of Dallas, unarmed at a swimming pool and enjoying their summer vacation, were manhandled by police and had guns pointed at their faces, one girl in bare feet and dressed only in a swimsuit was dragged to the ground by her hair.

When you are white and have a gun, you are granted the respect of police. When Cliven Bundy, gun in hand, declared solitary war on the federal government from his ranch in Nevada over land rights last year, federal officials ultimately caved afer a brief standoff. Las Vegas police did not wear any protective gear during a tense encounter with Bundy's supporters-- in a stark contrast to the events in Ferguson-- because officials there said it would only escalate the situation. In the end, Bundy claimed victory. His illegally-grazing cattle were returned to him, a roundup suspended, and officials promised only that they would pursue a different administrative remedy. This was 17 months ago, and since then, Nevada Senator Harry Reid has been threatened, and two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian shot to death by separatist militia members. Right wing nuts on television, the ones that routinely call Ferguson protesters "thugs" and even "terrorists," flocked to Bundy's defense, labeling him a patriot. Despite the fact he was defying all three branches of government-- Congressional law, judicial order, and executive enforcement, Bundy had the public support of the Nevada governor and a Utah congressman. A group of Arizona state legislators traveled to his compound to be with him during the standoff. Bundy is still breaking the law on federal land-grazing for the simple reason that he does not believe that the authority of the United State government exists. Of course American Indians were never granted the courtesy of a stand-down over the land disputes they had with Washington. I know you were as shocked as I was when Bundy, after the standoff, shared with reporters his opinion that black people had been better off under slavery.

This is the institutional racism of America-- two completely separate systems of justice-- that's existence continues to be denied by a majority of white people even though it's standing right in front of their faces. You won't ever see Bundy or Waco referenced in one of those clever "thin blue line" or "police lives matter" memes, and you'll never see the Oath Keepers traveling to a remote desert ranch or a biker bar to defend police.