Archive for May, 2014

NRA Caves In

The National Rifle Association, bowing to pressure exerted by Congress, has agreed to change its name to the National Gun Association.

Acknowledging that most of the murders committed in the U.S. involve handguns instead of rifles, the NRA began to destroy its existing  stationery and order new stocks that also incorporate its revised slogan “Guns r Us”.   Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president said in a short but heartfelt announcement “we know when to cash in our chips, give up the ghost, wave the white flag and lay down our arms.  This is a major victory for the gun control folks, but what the hell, we’ve had a good run.”

Expressing great satisfaction with the U.S. House of Representatives’ demands for the name change following last week’s massacre in Isla Vista, Speaker Boehner said, “That should bring closure to the question of whether we’ve got the balls to take on the NRA.  Forcing them to change their name brings them out of the closet and reveals just who they represent.  This is another meaningful accomplishment that our members can point to this November as we seek to expand our control of the House and take back the Senate.  And as further evidence of our commitment to reduce gun violence, I intend to offer up a proposal that repeals the Affordable Care Act. ”

When reporters queried Mr. Boehner about the connection of the repeal of Obamacare to the carnage caused by the lack of any meaningful gun controls, he replied “Oh, that’s just something we do”.  Mr. Boehner then left the Capitol to deliver the keynote speech at the NRA annual meeting.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the Tea-Party star better known as “Joe The Plumber”,  joined the chorus of gun rights advocates by penning the following to Richard Martinez, father of one of the Isla Vista victims.  “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.  So there.”  When asked what controls, if any, he might advocate to reduce the kind of carnage that happened in Isla Vista, Joe replied “Ya know, there were three people who that crazy bozo slaughtered with a knife.  Maybe we can require a seven-day waiting period and background checks at places like Williams Sonoma or Bed Bath and Beyond.  After all, there’s nothing in the Constitution about the right to bear knives.”

Attorney General Sam Olens of Georgia, where a recently enacted law allows people to carry guns into bars, churches and public places, said there was no truth to the statements made by gun owners that the law allows guns in public schools.  “That law only allows parents to carry guns when they pick up their kids.  After all, we’ve been overrun by kidnappings in school parking lots.  Someone had to do something, and we did it.”

One bright spot was Kansas where Attorney General Derek Smith clarified the law regarding guns in polling places.  “It’s OK to bring concealed weapons to a polling place as long as they allowed guns in that place before its use as a location where people vote.”  Gun control advocates cheered the clarification. On the other hand, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback questioned the logic of the restriction on polling places and surmised “Damn, maybe we should have let this alone.  Maybe if I were a fraudulent voter I’d think twice about going to place where some volunteer could blow me away without the proper ID.”

Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a courageous single-handed effort, proposed a slate of tough new gun controls including the public flogging of Chicago gun shop owners who violated the laws.  However, a reporter noted that 96% of the guns used during the city’s violent crimes were purchased in Kansas.

They should see how it feels

They need to know how it feels.

The Supremes, in a 5 to 4 decision, today opened the door to the unbridled conduct of religious prayer at government sponsored gatherings.

Five black-robed Christians, voicing their opinion through Justice Kennedy, said that the prayers offered at a Greece, New York town meeting were “merely ceremonial.”  Without any real meaning or importance, I suppose.  Sort of like the Pledge of Allegiance.  Or maybe the credits at the beginning of a movie. No big deal.

“Ceremonial prayer,” Kennedy wrote, “is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”  So it seems, according to the Justice, that people should be free to ignore the rule of law, and piss on their neighbors, if it offends their religious beliefs.  The Ayatollah is surely smiling.

The Greece, NY town officials took pains to note that they had tried, with little success, to find non-Christians, including atheists, to do the opening prayers. Obviously those officials haven’t a clue as to what an atheist is.  So rather than mothballing the religious invocations due to a paucity of Muslim, Hindu or Jewish religious leaders, they continued their usual practice unabated and with a distinctly Christian aura.

The two citizens who brought the suit against the town said, according to the Justice, that they felt excluded and offended.  Rising to his full height, Kennedy told them to suck it up and added “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable.”  Not in his court, I bet.

The Justice is also much too busy to spend any significant time deliberating over what is religiously offensive or what is merely ceremonial.  He whined “To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech…”  So let’s just pretend that the Constitution’s First Amendment doesn’t apply when government bodies pray.  There. Done. Next case.

I was reminded of the time that I took a business trip to Chicago where a next day meeting was scheduled at 9am on the Southside’s 71st and State streets.  Seriously misjudging my travel time from Chicago’s North Side (mostly white) to the South Side (nearly all black), I arrived at my destination an hour early.  Seeking a calming cup of coffee, I stumbled into the only restaurant open at that hour, a McDonald’s, and was greeted by a sea of black faces, all staring at me like I had just dropped into their midst from an alien ship.  I felt a heightened sense of exclusion but I also got some idea of what those people probably felt when the roles were reversed.

I’m certain that a number of the Justices must have thought “Well, if you don’t want to take part in the religious invocation, just leave the room and rejoin the party when we finish.  No harm, no foul.”  Sure.  I can just visualize the poor sap returning from the hallway and displaying himself as a blatant non-believer to those by whom he must be judged or with whom he must transact business.

As a Jew I feel highly offended by today’s decision.  But our long history of offenses is much too involved to cover in this miserable blog.  Nor can I begin to delve into the long list of offenses perpetrated by the religious majorities in other lands on religious minorities that did not share their point of view.

Today’s ruling diminishes, rather than enlarges, the concept of religious freedom because it restricts the right of the minority to be free of discrimination in a public setting.  Which is probably why the founding fathers decided to feature freedom of and freedom from religion in the First Amendment.  So my advice to the five black-robed Justices is to spend more time in the company of those who are different from themselves.  And see how it feels.

Keep Your Hands Off My Margaritas

The great lime crisis is upon us.

The intentional destruction of lime trees in Florida in 2001 and adverse climate conditions in Mexico  have coupled with our insatiable appetite for Margaritas and brought us to our knees.

Things are so bad that even the Ventura Star was forced to abandon its favored front page regimen of people who haven’t a clue about the Affordable Care Act and instead published a headline feature about the travails suffered by lime eaters and those who supply them with this highly essential food item.

The Star alerts us to the impact on local businesses of the inflated price of limes and the ways entrepreneurs are coping with this industry threatening malady.  Blessed with little or no government intervention, these men and women are making do on their own.  Thinner slices and a limit on the number of such slices in one’s Margarita are effectively propelling businesses to even greater creativity without the aid of government lime use regulations or inflated never-to-be-recovered  cash subsidies.

Nevertheless I felt sorry for folks like Alessandro Tromba, owner of a couple of local restaurants, who bemoaned the additional cost for the two forty pound cases of limes that he purchases every week.  The additional cost of about $130 a week prompted Alessandro to say “I don’t think most customers realize the cost of doing business has escalated so much.”  Yes, ten bucks a day for each of his restaurants is a bitter pill to swallow.  Surely some government intervention, other than health care benefits for all his employees, is warranted.

I trashed the Star after carefully extracting the New York Times crossword puzzle and sighted in on Meet the Press with David Gregory.  Taking a page from our resourceful lime entrepreneurs, Jason Chavetz, a Republican congressman from Utah, no doubt still smarting from a years’ ago nasty airport incident involving the Transportation Safety Agency, insisted that the way for this country to get back on its feet was to have government get out of its way.  Over-regulated, over-taxed and over-nannied, Congressman Chavetz, pausing to take a quick breath from accusing the White House of high treason for the Benghazi affair, was eloquent in his description of what this country will look like once a Republican was back in the Oval Office.

He was at the same table as William Adams, better known as the celebrity, Will.i.Am, a seven time Grammy award winner.  For most of the hour, Will had not smiled, giving one pause to his credentials as an entertainer.  Will, however, rolled his eyes and was obviously roused by Congressman Chavetz’s statements about the lack of any clear reason for government intervention in the lives of its better-left-alone citizens.

Being black surely influenced Will’s thoughts as he no doubt wondered if slavery would still be legal in Utah if not for thirteenth amendment to the Constitution.  Or if blacks would still have their very own water fountain in Mississippi.  Or if seniors would be residing in debtor’s prison if not for Social Security and Medicare.  Or if Wall Street would be looking out for its customers’ welfare without the SEC.  Or if Exxon would care about grounded oil tankers without the EPA.  Or if poor people and those with uninsurable disabilities could not get help without the Affordable Care act.

But one thing’s for sure.  Better that the government stay out of the lime crisis than to cast its long shadow over our Margaritas.



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