Thursday, October 19, 2017


Whenever discussions of, or arguments about, gun control come up -- and there are almost always arguments -- there is a clarion call about the second amendment to the United States Constitution.  Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again ...  Talk about beating a dead horse!  You would think that the second amendment is far more important than all other amendments, or even the Constitution itself.

Of course, the second amendment is not the most important piece of the Constitution, but do those who tout its importance the loudest really have the spirit of the amendment, or even just the wording, right?  Let us look at the second amendment as it is written in the Constitution:
        "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
        the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

What right of the people shall not be infringed?  That seems to be a key question.  To keep and bear arms seems the prevalent, and loudest, answer.  In fact, that seems to be the only (or the only "really significant") answer based on all the heightened rhetoric.  Let us assume that the founders of this country simply wanted the keeping and bearing of arms to be a right of the people.  If you follow the amendment to its full interpretation, then, why would the founders put in that phrase "A well regulated Militia"?  According to gun enthusiasts, groups like the National Rifle Association, and (although unspoken publicly, I would suspect) many politicians, any group of individuals have the right to arm themselves to the teeth and call themselves a militia.  Well ... you have the freedom to do and say that, of course, but that is not really a right.  Certainly, the founders would not be so concerned with such minutia as to include that in the Constitution, and then to call it a right.

Probably the most ignored part of the amendment, even more so than "A well regulated Militia", is the middle portion: "being necessary to the security of a free State".  Again, this has been co-opted by the pro-weapons proliferation and death-for-profit interests as meaning that the government of a free state would not be coming after its citizens' guns.  Correct, it would not.  That, I believe, is part of what the founders meant by this phrase's inclusion, but did they mean nothing more than the government cannot come after citizens' guns, period?  That, at best, is a resounding maybe. 

To presume that this country's founders, facing uncertainty, death, and the possibility of failure on such a grand scale, would be bogged down in the quagmire of minutia and, essentially, over-regulation is an insult to them.

Consider what those who came here faced: feudal systems, collection of taxes to support the king without a say in what the king does, absence of freedom to speak out against the king (with the possibility of imprisonment or death), an As the king goes, so goes the kingdom modality, and a Rights? What rights? condition, to name just a few. 

Eventually, a large number of those persons decide enough is enough and they are going to do something about it.  They decide to head out to a new land and begin a new nation of their making.  After doing so, in order to codify their intent, they create a document that will declare themselves free from tyranny; the document would be the Declaration of Independence.  They know their actions will anger the monarchy and all hell will certainly break loose and they will likely have to aggressively defend themselves.  All hell does break loose.and they do defend themselves.

As result of the bloodshed, another document of codification is drafted.  This document, going beyond declaring independence, states all of those things, in great detail, they are escaping and how this new nation will be run differently, and for the better.  That document is the United States Constitution.

Now, to bring this back to the question of gun control, do you think the founders of this new nation based the wording of the second amendment because the worst that could have happened was that British troops would take away their guns? 

Since all of this upheaval took place in the eighteenth century, let us look at England at that time.  Specifically, let us look at hunting.  How did they hunt for food in eighteenth century England?  I do not mean on foot, on horseback, individually, or in groups.  What did they use to kill their food?  Prior to the eighteenth century, pack of hounds were commonplace.  Shotguns came into their own and became more prevalent in hunting.  Therefore, aside from knowing a gun call kill a human being just like it can kill an animal, using shotguns to hunt for food was neither a law nor a right; it was considered normal ... nothing more than a means of survival.

When those individuals came here to start a new nation, did they suddenly stop using guns for hunting?  Of course not.  Having a gun, even more so for those who lived in more remote areas, was not deemed unusual.  Why, then, would the drafters of the Constitution feel a need to legislate that?  Why would they even consider, even for a moment, to make what was a normal means of survival a legal issue? 

Owning a gun was not so much non-negotiable, as the pro-gun movement would extol, but rather more superfluous than anything else, and that, along with everything mentioned above, is the context in which the second amendment was drafted.  The second amendment was drafted to call for a defensive force ("well regulated Militia") with the idea that, should a dire need arise, even the citizenry have the right to weapons to help defend this country. 

Thus, the second amendment is not about personal freedom to own guns, period.  It is not about the empowerment of this nation's citizens to not solely (and thus narrowly) defend themselves, but to defend this country against any and all threats to a free state. 

The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States is not about the individual at once, but rather about the nation at large.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Term of the Day: DEATH-FOR-PROFIT

No doubt you have heard the various terms to describe business entities and their relation to profits:
for-profit -- an entity that works to make a profit, which is the typical business model
non-profit -- an entity that does not work to make a profit, even though it earns money, usually involved with large-scale enterprises (i.e. UNICEF, American Heart Association)
not-for-profit -- an entity that does not work to make a profit, even though it earns money, usually involved with smaller-scale enterprises (i.e. amateur sports league)

Today, I would like to introduce a new term, even though it falls squarely under the for-profit category.  This term is specific to any entity that works for profit, allows the work for profit, or encourages the work for profit, with utter disregard for human life.  The term is ...


In light of the National Rifle Association's long-term bullish push for looser gun laws and the obsessive promotion of making more weapons available to more persons, all of which increase our chances of being killed and benefit guns manufacturers and gun sellers, the common denominators are death and profits.

You might read that last statement and say that, yes, more sales can generate profits and, yes, deaths occur using weapons and their related paraphernalia, but lumping the two together seems odd.  Yes, it seems odd to you and me, but not to certain politicians, groups like the NRA, gun manufacturers, and gun sellers.  How?  The reality is that every single time there is a mass shooting in the United States, the stock values of gun-related companies go up and sales of firearms increase.

Here is how the stock values of three major gun manufacturers fared after the Las Vegas shooting:
American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson) up more than 3%
Sturm Ruger & Company (largest firearm manufacturer in America) up 4%
Olin Corporation (ammunition/chlorine/sodium hydroxide maker) up 6%

Bump fire stocks (devices that alter a semi-automatic firearm to fire like a fully-automatic firearm), which the Las Vegas shooter used, are now hot items at gun stores.  Last week, Reuters news service noted a gun store in Georgia had received no requests for bump stocks prior to the Las Vegas shooting.  Afterward, requests went way up.  The store's owner said that the requests had likely gone up simply because people are "just worried that they're going to be banned".  Why would anyone worry about bump stocks being banned?  For protection?  To exercise their second amendment right?  Because they are firearm collectors, like antiques?  My feeling (and yes, concern) is that they, too, are interested on some level, consciously or subconsciously, in mass murder themselves.  Yes, that is a wild statement, but, in all seriousness, I cannot fathom any reasoning to be worried that an item that turns a weapon of war into a weapon of war that fires faster being banned unless you want one for yourself for that same purpose.

Stocks going up, gun sales going up, and gun paraphernalia sales going up means one thing for gun manufacturers: profits.  The increase of guns and their paraphernalia means one thing for us: increased chances to be killed.

Let us not overlook politicians who profit from the gun lobbies.  As the old saying goes: Don't bite the hand that feeds you.  Here is a list of the top ten senators and representatives who have received monies from the NRA over the course of the length of their entire respective political careers:
House of Representatives
French Hill (Republican from Arkansas) -- $1,089,477
Ken Buck (Republican from Colorado) -- $800,544
David Young (Republican from Iowa) -- $707,662
Mike Simpson (Republican from Idaho) -- $385,731
Greg Gianforte (Republican from Montana) -- $344,630
Don Young (Republican from Alaska) -- $245,720
Lloyd Smucker (Republican from Pennsylvania) -- $221,736
Bruce Poliquin (Republican from Maine) -- $201,398
Pete Sessions (Republican from Texas) -- $158,111
Barbara Comstock (Republican from Virginia) -- $137,232

(No, these dollar amounts are not misprints.)
John McCain (Republican from Arizona) -- $7,740,521
Richard Burr (Republican from North Carolina) -- $6,986,620
Roy Blunt (Republican from Montana) -- $4,551,146
Thom Tillis (Republican from North Carolina) -- $4,418,012
Cory Gardner (Republican from Colorado) -- $3,879,064
Marco Rubio (Republican from Florida) -- $3,303,355
Joni Ernst (Republican from Iowa) -- $3,124,273
Rob Portman (Republican from Ohio) -- $3,061,941
Todd Young (Republican from Indiana) -- $2,896,732
Bill Cassidy (Republican from Louisiana) -- $2,861,047

Mind you, these are just the top ten recipients in each house of Congress, not all of the recipients.

Let's say there is a mass shooting somewhere and you, as a member of Congress, express your sorrow and call for better gun control.  Not an unusual move.  In fact, they are the right things to say and your constituents would expect you to do so.  Now, let's say you are one of the politicians listed above, as well as any of those who take money from the NRA, or any other pro-firearm proliferation organization, and you say the same things.  What are your constituents supposed to think?  I am not talking about what you want them to think -- that your sorrow and intent to do the right thing are genuine -- but what should they think?

They should think you are a disingenuous and self-serving fraud with blood on your hands who sleeps well at night while more and more of us are being killed.  Every single one of you.


Thursday, October 12, 2017


One of the functions of those elected into office is to protect the citizens they represent.  A mayor is supposed to protect the city's residents.  A governor is supposed to protect the citizens of his/her state.  The citizens of a state are also to be protected by Senators and Representatives, just to a larger scale.  The President, everyone.

In fact, it is often said by politicians at any level that their priority is to protect their citizens, sometimes saying it is "the most important job" they have.  Indeed, certain actions, resolutions, and laws have been for the benefit of the public at large.  Sometimes, however, those very actions, resolutions, and laws are tinkered with, largely altered, or flat-out overturned, resulting in anywhere from less benefit to the public to either likely or definite harm.

There are other times when those very laws and regulations are changed, or kept from being put into place, to benefit anybody but the public.  Those who benefit are corporations, special interests, lobbyists, and those who stand to profit in some way.  Many times, the public's well-being, health, and welfare are ignored.  In terms of firearms, that profiting in some way is at the expense of the safety of the masses.  These entities and the far-too-many politicians they are in bed with (who pocket large sums of money from those entities) are intentionally making it more dangerous for the rest of us.  In short, our lives are unimportant.

There is, however, one time when our lives are important to politicians: election day.  Yes, Congress will make it so you are more likely to be permanently injured or lose your life, but they sure do want you to show up to vote them in, or keep them in, political office.  Our lives are far more important to those companies and special interests: people keep on buying products of mass murder, increasing profits, and allowing the vicious cycle of lobbying, advertising, and payoffs to continue.

Much of this is seen as nothing more than business transactions, akin to nothing more serious than buying a house.  The United States is home to approximately 4.4% of the world's population.  And yet, Americans own almost half of all guns owned in the entire world.  

The statistics are, however, a rollercoaster of information ...
> The total percentage of Americans who own guns has gone down to 36%, down from the highest level of 53% in 1994, but the average number of guns per household has doubled from four in 1994 to around eight now.
> Only 3% of gun owners in the U.S. own half of all guns in the U.S.
> Over the past half-century, the number of mass shootings in this country is nearly three times as many as the number of the next three countries combined. 
> If the total number of guns owned was distributed to the entire U.S. population, every single person would have a firearm ... with approximately another 25 million left over.
> Two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in this U.S. are suicides.
> A whopping 89% of gun owners are in favor of not selling firearms to the mentally ill.

It is not hard to see that the views on guns and ownership are fairly mixed for the most part.  That is both the cause and effect of how firearms are treated by the government and big business.  Gun enthusiasts and death-for-profits organizations like the National Rifle Association like to lift up the importance of life by saying more guns throughout the land makes the land safer (i.e. "A good guy with a gun could have prevented this"). 

And yet, how can that be when places like El Salvador, Honduras, and Venezuela, to name just a few, have both good guys and bad guys (in massive numbers, not just one) with weapons, their homicide rates are listed among the world's highest.  (Those are the three highest rates in the world as of 2015 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC]).  And how do these same groups of people explain countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Netherlands having such low homicide rates while gun ownership is very low?  No connection ... mere happenstance. 

Recently, the NRA shocked everyone by saying it was in favor of regulations for bump stocks, in light of the Las Vegas mass murder on the first of this month.  My initial feeling was that they were going to ask for a swap of some kind to get behind it.  However, just days later, it said there was no way it would support an all-out ban on them.  If it was truly for safety, it would back a ban on them (and automatic firearms, gun show background checks, etc.), but they want this country to be a profit-gushing weaponocracy.

After every mass murder, the names and ages of the victims are released.  Each and every one of those killed is a tragedy.  Living in New Jersey, just east of Philadelphia, I hear stories of infants and toddlers being shot by stray bullets in drive-by shootings a lot.  In terms of specifically a mass murder incident, the one in recent memory that shook me the most was the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, five years ago.  The oldest victims, comprising less than one-third of the total number of victims, ranged in age from twenty-seven to fifty-six.  The youngest victims, all elementary school students, were just six and seven years old.  SIX AND SEVEN YEARS OLD!  What was done in light of this shooting?  A lot of talking.  Aside from alot of talking, what was done in light of this shooting?  Nothing, absolutely nothing

British columnist Dan Hodges summed it up best, albeit fatalistically, in a 2015 tweet ...

Lives, the public's lives, our lives are important for making points, gaining votes, and benefiting special interests ... but not important enough to do everything possible to save them.  That is a highly limited importance of our lives.

So, where exactly is the protection going?


Sunday, October 8, 2017


This is a video on how to operate a pump handle shotgun.
It is most often used for hunting and it is legal.

This is a video of how to operate a semi-automatic shotgun.

It eliminates the need for pumping the barrel to load the next bullet.  It is sometimes used for hunting, although some states ban their use for that purpose, and whether or not they are legal depends on where in the country you stand.  In other words, while not true in all fifty states, they are legal.

The three images below are examples of what is called a "bump stock".  Its purpose is to allow a semi-automatic shotgun (seen above) to fire as a fully automatic shotgun.

Below is a video of someone using a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock.
(** Note: there are 100 rounds in the clip.  Listen to how fast they are all spent.)

Now, get this: Bump stocks are legal.  Why?  One reason is that they are only part of a gun, not a gun itself, that's why. 

This is Jill Snyder.  Jill Snyder is the Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).  Just days ago, in Las Vegas, she said the following:  "Bump fire stocks, while simulating automatic fire, do not actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them legal under current federal law."

Don't alter the firearm?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!!!  The bump stock has to actually become a fully automatic firearm itself in order be rendered illegal?  Simulated automatic fire kills just as many people as does fire from an actual fully automatic weapon.  Give me a break!

So, let me get this straight:  Bump stocks don't mix your eggs to make scrambled eggs or wash your car.  You can't make calls with them like a cell phone.  They aren't alarm clocks and they are useless for doing laundry.  However, bump stocks are legal under federal law because they are not weapons and they, allegedly, do no altering of a firearm.  (I'm sorry, but "altering" is a flat-out synonym for "changing", and by making a semi-automatic weapon fire exactly like a fully automatic weapon, you are changing/altering the way that weapon fires, plain and simple.)

While the government minces words, mass shooters are cutting down more and more people.

Laws passed by the government can make something legal or illegal.  If there is no legislation regarding something whatsoever, the default position is that whatever it is, it is legal.  It may be distasteful, immoral, or unethical, but legally it is still just fine.

If you own a business that sells firearms, you are federally required to perform a background check on the prospective buyer.  If you sell firearms privately, completely unrelated to any firearms business, you are not federally required to perform a background check ... and in the majority of U.S. states, not even the state requires you to do a background check!  If you sell firearms at a gun show, which falls under the private seller category, you too are not required to perform background checks.  An added element of the "gun show loophole", as it is called, is that not even a record of the sale is required.  (Certainly, a private seller is not going to keep a record around anywhere, either.)  Gun shows are not selling only pistols as firearms, either! 

However, if you buy a gun from someone privately or attend a gun show to buy a firearm, you do need one form of photo identification.  It is on green paper stock and the photo is of a dead president of the United States. 

If someone buys firearms, any firearms, as well as modifications like bump stocks, and uses it/them to commit murder, the sale itself is still legal.  (Are the number of murderers who buy weapons this way simply buying them to admire them?  Are they all antiques collectors?)  While the act of murder is still illegal, the means by which the murderer acquires the weapon(s) is legal.  It is condemning the act, but legalizing the ease of access to do it.

It is all a close relative of legalized mass murder.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Phrase of the Day: THE FALSE VALUE OF LIFE




EMANUEL A.M.E. CHURCH (Charleston, S.C.)
(plus countless other shootings)










Saturday, September 30, 2017

Phrase of the Day: NOT A GOOD NEWS STORY

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the island of Puerto Rico is in shambles.  To say that almost everywhere one looks, it looks like a bomb went off would be an understatement.  The devastation is massive.

I do not mean this to diminish the damage and suffering incurred by parts of Texas and Louisiana, and almost the entirety of Florida, after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  The loss and cost of rebuilding in all of those states will be immense and take several years.  However, Puerto Rico is an island that was already not up to the standards of infrastructure as those in the U.S. mainland, thus already operating from a deficit before Hurricane Irma hit, let alone the follow-up, and far more severe, punch of Hurricane Maria shortly afterward.  Reports of devastation and total destruction have become commonplace.

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends shared a post from someone on the ground, in the thick of things in the hurricanes' aftermath.  The original post came from someone in a town called Trujillo Alto, roughly thirteen miles (twenty-one kilometers) southwest of San Juan.  It describes, first-hand, the devastation the author has seen:
        "I am here right now with a sip from a cell tower, which will probably have its diesel
        stolen promptly and will fade out.  3 died today from lack of dialysis in a hospital -
        no power for six days, no diesel for the emergency generators, no diesel for the diesel
        trucks to take the diesel.  I spent 12 hours today to get fuel to go work and the fuel
        tanker never arrived to the station.  Over 3,000 cadavers were unearthed naturally by
        flooding in Lares and now float on the township, creating pestilence problems.  There
        are over 1,200 containers with aid and supplies (food, everything for we are an island)
        that cannot be distributed for truckers don't have diesel for the trucks.  I have seen a
        grand total of 2 National Guard trucks going from Ponce up Cayey since the hurricane.
        That's all the US military presence I've seen firsthand.  99% of everything has been
        done by us, manually.  Police have no radio, no comms, no phones, no gas to move
        their cars.  99% of PR has no electricity, and 75% has no running water.  Over 90%
        of cell phone service is down.  I'm living with a knife-edge machete alongside me,
        because of the looting and crime. That's the current [situation] in a nutshell, no BS."

President Trump's response, both verbal/posted and putting relief efforts in motion, has been disgraceful.  Terms such as unpresidential, inhumane, out of touch, and disgraceful are on point.  First, listen to this interview with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ports that hold vital relief supplies are located, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who is in the thick of things. 

Not only was Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke's statement two days ago out of touch, although she changed her tune only after heading down to Puerto Rico yesterday, President Trump's own comments have been nothing short of disgusting.

From five days ago, after a long silence ...

... and from just today ...

What the hell kind of a response is that?!  Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and has been for decades, so its residents are U.S. citizens.  While the response had been slow to some degree after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and after Hurricane Irma in Florida, the President has not shown this contempt to those states.  Why?  Last I checked, a U.S. citizen is a U.S. citizen. 

Adding insult to injury, the remainder of the last tweet just above reads:

Has he blamed the victims for not moving relief efforts along more?  Check.  (Great, blame the victims.)  Has he blamed the fake news for disparaging the relief efforts?  Check.  (Broken record.)  Has he has yammered on about how great the relief effort has been going?  Check.  (Repetition and superlatives are not proof.)

President Trump accused San Juan Mayor Cruz of poor leadership.  In psychology, that is known as "projection".


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Number of the Day: 10,000

Hard to believe, but it's true.  The Keyboard Commentarian has passed 10,000 views!  I am truly grateful that so many people have found this blog, and to those who come back again and again.  A special thank you, if I may, to those who come back, especially since, as I have mentioned before, I do not post with much regularity.  This is not a daily, weekly, or necessarily an even monthly blog.  I feel that, when I feel strongly enough on a subject, I will be (as I state right underneath the page title) sitting in front of my keyboard ... commenting.

Clearly, many, many people from around the world have found this blog, as the top ten list below shows...

In addition to these -- if you did the math, you know the numbers above do not add up to 10,000 even, let alone more than -- there have been views from many other locations around the world.  Locations such as Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Tanzania, Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, and Romania, to name a few.  I have mentioned it in the past, but I am still amazed at the interconnectedness (albeit, merely electronically) that the World Wide Web provides.  

It was back on February 20, 2015, that this blog passed 5,000 views -- two years and eight months after my first post in June of 2012.  It has taken two years and seven months to go from 5,000 views to 10,000 views.  Not too shabby.  (Maybe sometime in the Spring of 2020 will bring 15,000 views?)

All I can say is thanks to all of you who have found this blog and, hopefully, keep coming back.  If you enjoy what I write, please pass the address of this blog along to anyone who you think might also enjoy it.  As always, my hope is to continue writing about things that interest you and that keep you coming back.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017


My original idea for this post was to talk about Hurricane Harvey, which inundated parts of coastal and southeastern Texas, as well as portions of eastern Louisiana.  Instead, based on what is happening right now, my focus will be on global warming.

My memory may not be on point, especially since I don't live in a part of the country where hurricanes are regular occurrences, but I remember when hurricane season came around each year, there was usually one major hurricane (maybe two) and some smaller storms.  These storms would cause damage and flooding to varying degrees.  Additionally, a number these storms went out to sea or dissipated without rebuilding strength once they passed over land for a while.  There may have been years where that was not the case, but that is, in the broadest terms, how I remember this time of year.

In recent years, however, things have changed.  The hurricane season has changed.  Hurricanes themselves have changed ... a lot.  This hurricane season has been the most dramatic and devastating result of current global warming.  We can look back to 2005 and Hurricane Katrina and its devastation, including nearly 1,900 deaths.  There is Superstorm Sandy in 2012, called such as it was a "perfect storm"-like convergence of a hurricane (Sandy) and a nor-easter storm, which hit large portions of my home state of New Jersey, New York City, and New England area.  The first few weeks of Fall last year saw Hurricane Matthew cause massive damage to parts of South Carolina and Florida.  Other areas affected by these storms, including Hurricane Katrina, include the Greater and Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

Let us look at just the past month alone.  Beginning in mid-August and lasting through early September, Hurricane Harvey took a rather unusual track, making landfall, turning around, going back out over the Gulf of Mexico, and then making landfall as second time.

More recently, Florida -- along with the Antilles, Barbados (which was, in effect, rendered uninhabitable), Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Cape Verde -- was devastated by Hurricane Irma.
In addition to the hurricane itself, there were reports of tornadoes that popped up in various parts of Florida, just as they did during Hurricane Harvey.

In the history of record-keeping for hurricanes, there have never been two hurricanes in the same year that made landfall at Category 4.  Both Harvey and Irma were Cat 4 when they made landfall.

Something else that has never happened before is the existence of three concurrent hurricanes.  Along with the extent of Harvey and Irma and Hurricane Katia which hit the southern part of Mexico as a Cat 1 hurricane.  (This image was recorded much earlier in the hurricanes' paths.  Lee, on the far right, remains a tropical depression.)

Currently, we have two hurricanes in play, Jose and Maria.

Jose is expected to do a clockwise turn in the Atlantic which would bring in closer to the northeastern coast of the United States.

And Hurricane Maria, which taking a more northern track than Irma, is still going to affect many of the island areas are hammered by Hurricane Irma.  As of this posting, Maria is a Category 5 hurricane and heading for Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma.

To be fair, any hurricane or tornado can bring a lot of damage, of course, but the more intense the winds and the slower it moves, the greater the amount of damage and loss of life.  The conditions for the creation and strengthening of hurricanes exists.  The resulting warmer waters from global warming are like fuel for hurricanes.  Time and time again, even hometown weather forecasters reiterate the warmer the water, the greater the fuel for hurricanes.  And yet, many people say the water's temperature is unto itself, with little to no effect on anything else.

Does this look like global warming is having no effect on water temperature and the amount of storm-related activity?  (Image from two days ago.)

Do I believe that the Earth gets colder and warmer on its own over centuries of millennia?  Yes, I do.  I also believe, however, that there can be mitigating circumstances that can retard or accelerate the heating or cooling.  Just like any science experiment, the same elements and conditions that produce a certain result can bring about a different result if any of the those elements or conditions are changed.  Therefore, I cannot accept that humanity's increased expulsion of fossil fuels has zero effect on the climate.  Just on a basic level, to say that it's impossible seems impossible to me. 

I have made the following argument before on different topics, but it also applies to global warming: Do the politicians and business leaders around the world have to be directly affected to a devastating degree before they address global warming as a serious issue that mandates action?  It certainly seems that way.  In the meantime, while it is not yet knocking on their door, people are losing their lives, their property, and their hope.

Tell that to the people of Barbados...

...or to the people of the Turks and Caicos islands...

...or to the people of Puerto Rico...

...or to the people of Florida...

There are those who refer to the Earth as Mother (Mother Earth), as the personification of this planet we have been given.  Whether you see it in those terms or not, the main point is that this planet is a living thing.  Along the lines of you reap what you sow, you get as good as you give, what you put in is what you get out, Earth is showing us cause and effect on a global scale.  Not on a small scale, as perhaps a remote tribe unable to comprehend it, but to all of us.  Ignorance is no excuse.  The time to deal with global warming has been here.  Are we at a point of no return?  There is some disagreement on that, but why err on the side of throwing caution to the wind?

There have been different periods in the history of the world, usually referred to as "ages" (i.e. Stone Age, Ice Age, Middle Ages).  I am not sure if this term has reached modern antiquity status, but it has been said that we are (were) in the Information Age.  (Perhaps with all of this information and the lack of global action, this might be called the Ignorance Age.)

What period are we in right now?



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Term of the Day: THE KING OF COMEDY

Over the weekend, the world lost a giant in the world of comedy, Jerry Lewis.  He died at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 91.  His career spanned eight decades, beginning at age 5, including Vaudeville, radio, stage headliner (solo and with Dean Martin), television, and film.  He influenced generations of comedians, including Richard Pryor, Marlon Wayans, and Jim Carrey, among others.

In 1946, what would be Lewis' first, and arguably, greatest show business success began when he teamed up with singer Dean Martin as a duo act that played nightclubs and halls with Martin playing the crooning straight man to Lewis' zaniness.  The first gig of Martin and Lewis was at the old 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
They rose to national popularity quickly and were given their own radio program, The Martin and Lewis Show, which ran from 1949 to 1953 on the old NBC Red Network.  They appeared on the then-newfangled thing called television on such shows as Toast of the Town, later called The Ed Sullivan Show, and Welcome Aboard (both in 1948), and The Colgate Comedy Hour (1950).  Their writers were Ed Simmons (who would later produce Welcome Back, Kotter and Mama's Family) and Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, One Day at a Time).

They began their film career in 1950 at Paramount Studios (back when the studio system of managing talent still ruled the day) with At War With the Army.  That was followed by more than a dozen films, including That's My Boy (1951), The Caddy (1953), Scared Stiff (1953), Pardners (1956), and their last film Hollywood or Bust (1956).

Their popularity was so big, there was even a comic book series based on them that ran for five years, called The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

The duo split up in 1956 after much tension between the two as Lewis began to get much more attention than did Martin.  After ten years, the team of Martin and Lewis was no more, with both pursuing very successful solo careers.  The two had very rarely seen each other after the split, but Frank Sinatra, during Lewis' 1976 telethon, snuck Dean Martin on stage, marking the first time two had been together in twenty years.  It is still regarded as one of the telethon's highlights.

While Dean Martin scored as a nightclub performer (solo and with The Rat Pack), recording artist, film star (over forty films), and television star (The Dean Martin Show, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast), Lewis went on to great heights in film, appearing in over thirty movies, many of which he directed and/or starred in and/or produced.  He also added singing to his achievements, even though he's more well-known for singing loudly and off-key, with the release of his 1956 album Jerry Lewis Just Sings, which went to #3 on the Billboard charts and sold more than one-and-a-half million copies.

His greatest on-screen successes, although he had many, were The Nutty Professor in 1963, considered by many (including me) to be his masterpiece, and The King of Comedy in 1982, alongside Robert DeNiro.  Although he had commercial failures in film as well -- Three on a Couch (1966), Way...Way Out (1966), Slapstick of Another Kind (1982), Cracking Up (1983) and others -- his most infamous film, even though it was never released, was The Day the Clown Cried.  The film, a 1972 drama about a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, was plagued with problems almost from the start, including loss of financing (for which Lewis put up his own money), script rewrites, and studio pressure.  Lewis hated the film and refused to release it.  To this day, forty-five years later, it has never been publicly shown, although some individuals have claimed to have seen it.  Sadly, his final film, Max Rose, released last year, was a box office failure.

While filming The Bellboy, he invented the video assist, a means of watching a film take immediately afterward on video, which became, and remains, standard practice in film making.  In the late 1960's, Lewis taught a film directing class at the University of Southern California .  (Two of his students were George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg.)

In 1952, he began his charity work on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA)   It was in that year that Lewis began hosting telethons to benefit the MDA, although most mark the telethon's beginning as 1966, which was the year it went national.  In the roughly half-century during Lewis' involvement, the telethon raised more than $2.6 billion for MDA.  (Lewis insisted that the toteboard not include contributions from major corporations and contributors so that the viewers never felt in competition with entities that could raise more money.)  Lewis' name and the MDA's annual Labor Day telethon were synonymous for decades.

Later in life, Lewis did make several verbal missteps, like making off-color or insensitive jokes during his final few years of hosting the MDA Telethon, not being fond of female comedians (adding that women have no place being crude in their comedy), and publicly stating his right-wing views in the last years of his life.  There are many parts of his life that are not all pleasant and they have been recounted in many an obituary in print, on television, and on the Internet.  My intent is not to whitewash those parts of him, but to simply acknowledge them here and recap the parts of his life more well-known.

There have been many funny moments from his films remembered through the years.  Probably one of the most famous comes from his 1963 film Who's Minding the Store? (not to mention the music from it having been played by orchestras around the world) in which Lewis is "typing" away ...

Or dancing as Professor Julius Kelp in The Nutty Professor ...

Or a little distraction before doing the dishes in Who's Minding the Store? ...

Or trying to fix a hat (you can see Lewis cracking up a couple of times) in The Ladies Man ...

Or trying to get comfortable in his psychiatrist's office in Cracking Up ...

But my favorite scene from his films is the board room scene in The Errand Boy ...

Lewis also appeared on the Great White Way, making his Broadway debut in the 1995 revival of Damn Yankees at age 69!

Lewis had a myriad of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and chronic back problems.  It was due to pulmonary fibrosis that he began taking the steroid Prednisone in the Spring of 2001.  It bloated his body to where he was almost unrecognizable.  I remember watching the 2001 telethon and I truly thought he was wearing some sort of full-body prosthetic.  He trudged on, even in this bloated condition, continuing to be weaned off the drug, to host the telethon ... looking about the same in 2002, far less bloated in 2003, and back to just about normal in 2004.

Over the course of his long career, Lewis received a multitude of awards.  A partial list includes the Legion of Honor (Légion d'honneur) merit award (France), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Career Achievement Award, the Goldene Kamera Honorary Award (Germany), the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (Academy Awards), an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Chapman University (California), and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009 and was made an honorary member of the Order of Australia in 2013.

Even though his rubber-faced expressions and physical slapstick comedy fell out of favor over the generations, Jerry Lewis made me laugh, hard, and much more than once or twice.  I loved his unbridled silliness.  He once said in an interview that we all have that inner child that we suppress as we get older; he just tapped into his much more.  Next to love and kindness, in my book, the greatest gift one can give is laughter.  Jerry Lewis gave us all that in abundance.

In France, he's known as Le Roi du Crazy ("The King of Crazy").  In Italy, he known as Picchiatello ("Crackpot").  On a 1978 episode of The Mike Douglas Show, Brazilian soccer star Pelé said that people in his country called Lewis "Crazy Boy".  By most, he came to be known as The King of Comedy.

And so, to The King of Crazy, Crackpot, Crazy Boy, and The King of Comedy, we say congratulations on a hell of a life, thanks so much, and rest in peace.


Thursday, August 17, 2017


President Donald Trump must be removed from office.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  There is no ambiguity.  There is a real necessity of crisis and the President must become a former occupant of the Oval Office as soon as possible.

I have been watching what President Trump has done and not done in his nearly-seven-month presidency with a mixture of anger, frustration, and disbelief.  The only two things with which I have agreed are his saying immigrants should come here legally (but not as he has used it as a justification for banning Muslims) and backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Trump is no stranger to controversy -- look up the Central Park Five and his stance on it for just one example -- but now, as President, he seems to thrive on it.

From his dark and uninspiring "American carnage" inauguration speech and his childish argument about the size of the crowd in attendance to surrounding himself with ridiculous and uniformed representatives (i.e. Kellyanne "alternative facts" Conway, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump) and calling for a voter fraud investigation even though he won (likely because his ego just cannot stand not winning the popular vote in the 2016 election), he has shown his relish of inciteful rhetoric, his need of ego stroking, and his warm embrace of nepotism.

From his three decades-long business dealings with Russia and refusing to show his tax returns (clearly to hide something) to saying his failed business ventures (i.e. Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Ice Spring Water) were actually successful, he shows shady and failed business dealings are okay.  His firing of James Comey as FBI Director when Comey was giving Trump himself more scrutiny, as well as his still-in-play potential move to remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller from his investigation, and publicly lambasting Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, reveals a person who has very serious matters to hide.  (Not to mention how in the world he thought none of this would ever come out once he got into the White House is mind-boggling.)  His regular use of language to put down others in order to make himself look better (i.e. "failing New York Times", "sleepy eyes Chuck Todd", "crooked Hillary", "fake news", "Psycho Joe" Scarborough, etc.) clearly displays a character flaw.

It's as though his promise to do things in Washington far differently than the status quo really stood for just starting up a bulldozer and letting it run without a driver.  That is not implementation of new, untried methods of governance, but rather a collateral damage presidency.

Don't even get me started on how ignorant Trump and his staffers and supporters are regarding history, not to mention his own inexplicable admiration for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.  And when has any U.S. President stated publicly that ruthless leaders like Putin are great leaders?

Still, Republican members of Congress along with various Trump supporters had only gone so far as to say, well, they might not do the same thing or, okay, what Trump said was inappropriate before jumping off the subject.

Let us now look at this past Saturday in the town of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The above picture is of a vehicular assault on a crowd of anti-Nazi/anti-white supremacist protesters.  The protesters were there in response to a march of White Supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Confederacy General Robert E. Lee and the renaming of Lee Park, where the statue is located, to Emancipation Park.  James Alex Fields, Jr., plowed into the crowd, rear-ending two vehicles, injuring nineteen persons and killing one, 32-year-old Heather Heyer.  Fields was seen, earlier in the day, marching with the white supremacists.

Led by Jason Kessler, founder of the far-right group Unity & Security for America, white supremacists attending the 'Unite the Right' rally came armed.  They had firearms and other items that could be used as weapons.  Their claim for doing so is that they knew there would be a confrontation with those who disagree with them.  My opinion is that they came armed, not because they simply knew a confrontation was coming, but that they wanted a confrontation to take place.  When you espouse violence and use images of people fighting you to bolster your position, how could you reject such a desire?

The anti-white supremacist protesters came to counter the Unite the Right rally's message.  They disagree with having statues that honor those who fought for division and for slavery.  I agree.  I do not agree with destroying them or hiding them, however.  They belong in museums, not out in the open.  Those statues, as well as the Confederate flag, are not representing heritage.  They represent a collective mind of people who believed in maintaining the slavery state and who were willing to tear apart the country to do so.

Pro-Nazism and pro-Confederacy movements are making strange bedfellows these days.  Although, David Duke, a member of the American Nazi Party, who joined the KKK in 1967, eventually becoming its Grand Wizard, began pulling the two movements closer decades ago.  The two movements have a similarity that can be described as white supremacy or a pro-white mentality merger.  Slave owners were primarily white and, since black persons were nothing more than chattel, a whites-only dominion was the norm of the day.  Nazism, which, in addition to Jews, also fought against groups like Catholics and black people, believed certain white persons (the Aryan race) were the "Master Race" intended to take over and run the Earth.  Like the Confederacy's willingness to tear the United States apart to achieve its goals, the Nazis were willing to tear the world apart to achieve theirs.  Every President, from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, has openly and freely condemned the Nazi movement and all of its offshoots.

Every president, that is, except President Donald Trump.

Now, before anyone argues that he did come out and condemn various hate groups by name on Monday, it is important to look at all three mentions President Trump has made regarding this issue in the past several days, not just the one he made on Monday.

Saturday was the day of the march, the anti-protest march, physical attacks, and the murder of someone plus the injuring of more than a dozen individuals.  Later that day, Trump claimed hatred, bigotry, and violence came from "many sides".  No specific mention of the groups responsible, but just three words, "on many sides", ended up spreading the blame like a pat of ambiguous butter across an entire loaf of bread.  It was a Nazi / white supremacist rally that invoked violence, which means it should have been rebuked by name.  Nazism, white supremacy, and all of its hoards of hatred must be denounced, by name, with strong terms ... and it should come easily.  Trump, who consistently slammed Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign for not saying specifically "radical Islamic terrorists" did not do the same on Saturday regarding white supremacists.

On Monday, President Trump was much more specific:
        "Racism is evil and those who commit violence in its name are criminals and
        thugs, including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate
        groups that are repugnant to every we hold dear as Americans."

Clearly, much better.

The kicker came two days ago during a press conference originally slated to discuss infrastructure, which quickly turned to the events in Charlottesville.  First, the President said he did not wait to be more specific on Saturday in his condemnation of the violence because he "wanted all the facts", which apparently took forty-eight hours to accomplish.  (He added that he likes to be correct when he makes a statement.  Liking to and doing are two different things.)  He refused to call the car attack terrorism, calling it "the fastest one to come up with a good verdict", whatever that was supposed to mean.  He claimed that not all those who marched with the Unite the Right rally were white supremacists, even adding that the evening protest the night before.was quiet.  He even said that, if statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were coming down, why not statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, drawing a glaring false equivalency.  Some of those who took part in the Unite the Right rally were "very fine people", according to the President, and he also reiterated that blame rests on both sides.

So, if you're speaking in broad terms on Saturday, then speak in specific terms on Monday, and then speak in broad terms once again on Tuesday, how do Americans find solace in a President righteously condemning evil?  The answer is they don't because he really doesn't.

The following short documentary put out by Vice News, which begins with images from the "quiet" evening rally the night before, recounts what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday.  Warning: Graphic images and language.

© 2017 Vice News / Home Box Office

In 1943, during World War II, the U.S. government put out an anti-fascist educational film titled Don't Be a Sucker.  (It was re-released in 1947.)  An abridged version has been making the rounds on social media.  Below is the full film, which runs about seventeen minutes.  Watch it and see if you see any relevance to what is going on today.

What about all this uprising of white supremacists, fascists, and racists?  New?  Hardly.  However, like any forest during a lengthy dry spell, just one spark can bring about a forest fire.  These hateful, evil people are the forest, but what was the spark?

Mr. Trump, when you said in your inauguration speech that your inauguration would be "remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again", to which people exactly were you referring?

Congress has the power to serve him his walking papers, but will they?  If they have only mildly condemned the President on things he has said during the campaign and while in the White House, what will happen in the light of this?  Do enough members of Congress have to be attacked personally (i.e. death, dismemberment, harm to their families) before they do something?  If the President refuses to condemn, by name, this evil and not waver in that condemnation -- and not coming across as though he'sbeing forced to do so -- how is he functioning in the best interests of the nation?  And how is that wavering not un-American?  In embracing Vladimir Putin and only condemning white supremacists when pushed to do so, how can you leave him in power?  The House already voted earlier this year to not proceed in forcing Trump to disclose his tax returns, so, when all the nasty information from them comes out, they are co-conspirators.  If Nazism, white supremacy, and racism are allowed to rule the day, you are not our Congress, rather our complicit oppressors.

I almost forgot to mention three key players in the midst of this who should also go ASAP.  First, Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, who used to head the alt-right website before his appointment by Trump.  Next, Stephen Miller, a Trump senior adviser, was once mentored by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who organized the Unite the Right rally on Saturday.  Finally, Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to Donald Trump, who also worked for Breitbart, is connected to Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian anti-Semitic nationalist group.  (He even wore a pin of Vitézi Rend's logo on his lapel to the inauguration.) 

Just yesterday, one of the cable news shows displayed this on the bottom of the screen: GOP SPLIT ON TRUMP RESPONSE TO WHITE SUPREMACISTS   Are they serious?!  Split??!!!  On that???!!!!!!  I guess loyalty to country is conditional, and I would love to hear an explanation on how that split isn't un-American.

Congress of the United States, you need to get a backbone, remember it is the country you serve, not simply the President, and act on this swiftly.  Mr. Trump is the President of America, but, in addition to every terrible thing else, he is un-American.  That makes his removal not merely a possibility, but an absolute necessity.