Archive for December, 2012

Napalm in the morning…

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

That was Robert Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now.  We laughed nervously at Lt. Colonel Kilgore’s morbid craziness while we also stared at the wild, crazy eyes of Marlon Brando, playing Colonel Kurtz, a berserk officer living in a cave, who had gone over the deep end in the same movie.

I was somehow reminded of that movie as I watched and listened to John Boehner this morning as he tried to explain why he couldn’t successfully arm wrestle enough members of his own party into voting for his Plan B.  A plan devised by folks who apparently had skipped arithmetic in first grade.  A plan that offered to microscopically increase taxes on folks making over a million dollars while, maybe inadvertently, also raise taxes on a few million poor folks.  Such a deal.

Eric Cantor, majority leader and Boehner’s Sancho Panza, stood next to the Speaker and, when his turn in the barrel came, told us how the Republicans had fought hard to maintain fiscal sanity while the Democrats simply didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation.  Then he quickly stepped aside, exited stage left, and went home for the holidays.

Speaker Boehner, looking like he needed some emergency time in the tanning booth, then took questions from the press.  “Mr. Speaker, now that you weren’t able to corral enough of your own party to pass your own Plan B, and since all of your members are headed for the airport, what are you going to do next to keep us from going off the fiscal cliff?”

Rising majestically to his full political height, a smile appeared on his face not unlike that of a kid who has no way out other than to tell the truth, and said “God only knows.”  For the first time ever, I actually almost believed him.

The Speaker knows the solution but can’t bring himself to say it.  To say it means that he will have failed to satisfy the Colonel Kilgores and Colonel Kurtzes of the Republican party.  The crazies who have hijacked the party and are holding it hostage until he and we agree to their every demand.  Holding a gun to their own heads like Cleavon Little did in Blazing Saddles.  The crazies who, like the NRA’s gun-toting national icon Charlton Heston, will never let a tax hike be pried from their cold, dead hands.

The same crazies worship Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, who earlier had promised to provide constructive suggestions that would stem the mass killings of first graders.  In satisfaction of that pledge he offered these remarks at today’s NRA news conference…

America has left its school children utterly defenseless.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Put an armed police officer in every school.

Laws that declare school zones as “Gun Free” actually entice killers to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

He criticized Congress for not having established a national data base of the mentally ill (he did not, however, offer to be first on its list.)

How does one deal with crazies?  First, you convince the vast majority of our citizens that the crazies are indeed crazy.  We’ve already done that, in spades.

Second, you refuse to deal with the crazies on their terms.  We’re doing that.

Third, you replace the crazies.  We’ve done some of that but another opportunity will come up in 2014.

Yes, the fiscal cliff is ten days away.  As the venerable George W. Bush once said “bring ’em on.”  If we do that, here’s what will happen.

Sane folks, including a bunch of Republicans, will realize that the sake of the country is more important than Grover Norquist, The Tea Party, and Wayne LaPierre.  They will band together with enough votes to pass legislation that will lead to fiscal sanity and put a severe dent in mass murders.

Until then, get used to the smell of napalm in the morning.

Robert Duvall

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Enough already…

My first feeling was outrage.  My second thought had something to do with the NRA.  My third notion was that maybe I should wait a few days before writing a blog about the murder of a whole kindergarten class in Connecticut.

I thought it would be unseemly in the wake of this slaughter of innocents to immediately begin carping about gun control, the idiocy of arming morons with weapons that are solely intended to murder large numbers of people in the most efficient manner possible, and the lack of morality so blatantly exhibited by the NRA and those who cheer its outrages.

And then I saw this…

Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, wasted no time trying to pin Friday’s shooting on gun control advocates. Think Progress quoted a statement of his that read, in part: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”

And this…

Recently the Michigan House of Representatives passed and sent to the governor a bill that, among other things, makes it easy for people to carry concealed weapons in schools. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger said that it might have meant “the difference between life and death for many innocent bystanders.”

And this…

Mike Huckabee preached…since prayer is banned from public schools, “should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

So, I decided to join this questionably elite company and scribble my own thoughts.

It’s too late to put the Genie back in the bottle.  There are too many guns in the hands of too many people to think that more effective gun control laws would have prevented the latest slaughter.

The Supreme Court has, for the foreseeable future, blocked any attempt to limit these weapons of mass destruction.  And anyone who doesn’t think that the hands of the five ultra conservative Supremes aren’t bloodied by the Sandy Hook carnage wreaked on Friday needs a refresher course in human relations.

There are too many politicians who rely on the NRA and its minions who support them.  And as long as the House remains gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, no meaningful legislation will emerge.

Our President is not without blame.  In 2008 he promised to deal with the unfettered sales of instruments of death at gun shows and the hideousness of assault weapons.  But we were instead blessed with laws permitting guns on Amtrak and in our national parks.  At least the crazies won’t have to worry about leaving their AK47s at home when they take the train to Yosemite.

This morning Dianne Feinstein told Meet the Press that she was finishing up a bill to ban assault weapons.  So as not to offend, some 800 weapon types will be grandfathered in as will those currently in the hands of people like Adam Lanza.

Perhaps most depressing is the country’s willingness, no, its support of guns and gun enthusiasts.  One Gallup poll reveals that 50% of fellow citizens are satisfied with the current slap-on-the hand gun control laws.  Another Gallup poll sadly reports that a majority feels no need to ban the private ownership of assault weapons.

Yes,  I know that the mental health of these killers is surely a contributing factor to the carnage.  Yes, we should do something to improve the identification of and provision of help to them.  But disturbed people without access to rapid fire, high-capacity guns is surely a whole lot better than the alternative.

Dozens, maybe hundreds, of people get slaughtered weekly in the Middle East.  We say, ho-hum, another day at the office.  So, as a reward for our wild-west, every man for himself, frontier mentality, maybe it’s our turn in the barrel.  A slow, but steady, progression of accepting the violent death of innocent bystanders as just another day’s work in protecting and expanding the rights of gunslingers.

Regrettably, maybe it’s best that we throw up our hands, let the anger pass, get back to business as usual, and just forget about doing anything meaningful to stop this insanity.

Then again, if we say ho-hum, what will we tell the kids who were not murdered in Sandy Hook.  What will we tell them when they ask “am I safe?”  How will we explain to them that we did nothing?  That we accepted the murders of their playmates as just one of those things.

No, enough already.

Sandy Hook

Tim died…

Tim died ten days ago.

I can see him just like yesterday.  Hobbling up and down the stairs in our two-story Ventura Boulevard office building that didn’t have an elevator.  Physical disabilities hounded him for much of his life beginning with an awful swimming pool accident in his teens.

Never a complainer, Tim drove a car, hunted doves, played the ponies,  a mean game of pool,  and always got us a disabled parking space at lunchtime.  Despite the limits imposed by his cane and his gnarly, twisted hands, he disdained using them as an excuse.  Never late, rather he was usually there before anyone else.  He enjoyed his smokes, expensive bourbon, and was a willing listener to anybody who needed one.

His bone crunching deformities got the better of him a few years ago and the bed in his hillside home became his permanent setting until death relieved him of his burdens.

Sweetie and I went to Tim’s celebration of life last Sunday.  It was a cloudy day, damp with the rain that had fallen for four days.  His house had been put back to the order it had enjoyed before his last bout with time.  Photos abounded, packs of Winstons were carefully placed, and a bottle of his favorite Maker’s Mark was available for viewing.  It was as though he had just gone down the hill for more cigarettes.

Tim and I had drifted apart after more than a dozen years as business partners.  We spoke on the phone a few times, the latest more than a year ago when our son Steven died.  I remember asking him then how he was doing and he said “you don’t need to hear about me right now.”  We finally got around to visiting him a few weeks before he joined up with Steven, for whom he had much affection and a bit of the same persona.

That  visit to the man in the bed produced old stories, a few laughs and repeated feelings of “oh crap, what a way to go.”  We stared at the photo of Tim holding his winning Santa Anita trifecta tickets on the day we celebrated his 50th birthday.  We talked about his illness.  After about an hour, he said “time for you guys to go.”  We all knew we’d never see each other again.

As with all of these celebrations, one is bound to see faces that have long since gone their own way.  So it was with some trepidation that I watched the door and hoped that I would recognize the faces of those who entered, and not be embarrassed by a fading memory.

 Scottie was already there.  Tim’s friend, confidante and sharer of life events, unwavering in his support of Tim during his illness.  Ken, recognizable even with a full head of gray hair, hadn’t changed from the easy to be with guy of fifteen years ago.  The eternally lovely Judy, our office mainstay, smiled, told us about her first grandchild and lent  her usual warmth to the dampness around us.  Joel, still growing at 55, and still the young man who presses his greenbacks, rolls with the punches, and is as friendly as ever.  Joe, who flew from Oregon for the event, looking more at ease with himself…and who, bless his heart, continues to fondly remember  the time we spent working together.  God, it was good party.

Toward the end of the day the sun peeked out of the four-day-old clouds and lit up the hills in back of Tim’s home.  As if to say, it’s OK to go home now.


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