If you can’t ‘beat em,’ ‘cheat em!’

Commentary

With GOP-led voter suppression bills spreading around Red States like wild-fire, Around the Block asks, are they really going as far as they should?

Well, it’s official – my adopted state of Florida has joined a growing list of Republican-led states in making it more difficult to vote.

The Florida law, signed by the current heart throb of the right, Governor Ron DeSantis, is particularly egregious. During a bill-signing ceremony in West Palm Beach broadcast exclusively by Fox News, DeSantis praised the Florida legislation as the “strongest election integrity measures in the country.” He said this despite the fact that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Continue reading “If you can’t ‘beat em,’ ‘cheat em!’”

Bad Cops, Confused Cops, Guns, Knoxville and My Oldest Friend

Commentary

Bad Things…Worse Things…Strange Things

Many Around the Block readers know that I spend a fair amount of time in Knoxville, Tennessee. Why? Well, it’s not just because Knoxville is a pleasant, mid-size city set at the foot of the picturesque Smokey Mountains. It’s not because of its vibrant downtown scene centered around the main drag, Gay Street (I kid you not). And not because it is the home of the main campus of the University of Tennessee giving the city a hint of college-town sensibility (the great Peyton Manning went to UT – the street right by the football stadium is actually called “Peyton Manning Pass” – I guess if there’s a Dan Marino Blvd. in Miami, anything is possible. Although you’ve got to admit the “Pass” thing is clever in its way). No, it’s because Knoxville is where my oldest nephew lives with two of my great nieces and one great nephew. (Why they’re not called my grand nieces and nephews I really can’t say.)

Knoxville was in the news this week. And not in a good way. In a week in which the the trial of Derek Chauvin, the alleged murderer of George Floyd dragged on; in a week in which a Brooklyn Center, MN police officer shot and killed a black man, Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop; it was also a week where there was a deadly shooting at the Austin-East Magnet High School in the northeast section of Knoxville.

The news of the shooting at Austin-East made the national media, but generally buried deep inside the paper or as a :30 second mention on cable news.

Why?

Well first, it wasn’t about a cop shooting a black man. Not only was it a black-on-black shooting, you know the kind that happens in Chicago all the time and is the Republican go-to when gun control is mentioned, it was the fifth fatal shooting at this school in 2021. Not good. Not tolerable. And, I’m sure while caused by many factors, including socio-economic demographics, the availability of guns was one of the reasons.

But here’s the thing.

On April 8, a mere four days before the Austin-East shooting, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the permit-less carry bill, also known as the constitutional carry bill, after the Tennessee House passed it last week. The law goes into effect on July 1.

Here’s a photo of Governor Lee, introducing the bill, surrounded by more than 40 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, supporting the “God-given” and constitutionally-protected Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans with a Constitutional Carry bill.

Why are these people applauding? Why is carrying a gun “God–given? Why am I asking stupid questions?

Obviously, there’s no cause and effect between this bill and the shooting; the law doesn’t go into effect until July. But think about the juxtaposition of the two events.

Just to be clear about what this law is about, take a look:

The legislation allows military members ages 18 to 20, and adults 20 and older to carry open or concealed handguns without a permit. Currently, gun owners have to take a training course before carrying a handgun.

According to News Channel 5 in Nashville, “While the bill was a priority this year for Gov. Lee, it has received criticism from numerous groups, including law enforcement over concerns it would increase crime. However, supporters claim they’re supporting 2nd Amendment rights.

Really? Second Amendment rights? Well yes. I guess the argument from our originalist Constitutional scholars (of which I’m sure there are many in the Tennessee legislature), goes something like this: “The Founders ain’t said nothing about them-there gun permits.”

As outrageous as this all is, the reason I’m really writing about it is that a curious thing happened to me as I was reading and thinking about the shooting, about the law and about my family living in what now has to be considered a state as loony, and perhaps more deadly, than my own state of Florida. (Yes…Bill Lee has now broken into the top five dumbest governors in America, a list that includes, Ron DeSantis, Brian Kemp, Greg Abbot and, sorry to say, Andrew Cuomo.)

Oh, yeah – the curious thing.

I have a real good friend; some might consider him one of my best friends. I’ve known this friend for over 50 years, so he’s certainly one of my oldest. Not only are we friends, our families are as well, as the many photos and movies of my daughters and his sons growing up together will attest to.

My friend and I are similar in many respects. We’re about the same age. We both grew up in Jewish middle class outer-borough families (he in Queens, I in Brooklyn) and we both eventually ended up in South Florida. Pre-Covid I saw my friend every week for Happy Hour and we went out to dinner as couples as often as we could. There’s this one thing however. On politics, I’m pretty far left; my friend is as far to the right as one can get. Despite the fact that we disagree on almost anything of import (except the excellent Happy Hour value the B.R. Cohn Silver Cabernet is), we always have a great time together.

One more thing. My friend is gun owner, has a concealed weapon permit and is generally “packing” whenever we go out. And no, that fact does not make me feel safer when we’re out together despite his statements to the contrary.

Knowing that my nephew and family lives in Tennessee, my friend called me on Monday right after the shooting in Knoxville to make sure everyone was OK. After assuring him that they were fine and that the incident was in an area far from where they lived, I mentioned my astonishment and anger that Tennessee had just passed the “Constitutional Carry Law” described above.

Guess what? My gun-toting, NRA card-carrying, Fox News-junkie best friend agreed with me. In fact, he said, “What are they crazy? No one who hasn’t been trained and received certification should have a gun. And open carry is nuts. Open carry gives these criminals the jump on cops who have to have their weapons secured on their belt.”

Wow, I told my friend, “We agree on something that has to do with gun control. I’m going to mark this date on my calendar.” Of course, he then went on to say that regarding all the cop homicides, that most of the people the cops killed were “criminals” so there is some justification for the police actions at these “traffic stops.”

Ah, well – B.R. Cohn Silver and the “Constitutional Carry Law.” Two out of three ain’t bad!

Mitch McConnell to Corporate America: “STAY OUT OF POLITICS!”

News with a Twist

Senate Minority Leader discusses his position in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Around the Block

Around the Block: Good evening Senator McConnell. Thank you for agreeing to this sit down. This is an exciting moment for Around the Block and our readers.

Continue reading “Mitch McConnell to Corporate America: “STAY OUT OF POLITICS!””

Presidential Library and Trump is a contradiction in terms

Commentary

Trump claims to have the “best words.” “Library” probably isn’t one of them.

Donald Trump’s hometown newspaper, the Palm Beach Post, ran a front-page story today headlined, “Talk of a Donald Trump presidential library has some open records watchdogs wary.”

As you can tell by that headline, the thrust of the story concerned whether Trump should actually be “entrusted with a presidential library? And if so, who should be in charge of telling the story of the Trump presidency?

Continue reading “Presidential Library and Trump is a contradiction in terms”

Rubio y Cruz: Como dos guisantes podridos en una vaina.*

Commentary

*Rubio and Cruz: Like two rotten peas in a pod.

*I translated the headline because, despite his Cuban family heritage, the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, does not speak Spanish, “very well.”

I’m writing about these two “esteemed” senators today because they’ve both recently been in the news – Cruz for his very publicized sojourn to the Southern border; Rubio for his not so well-known concerns about UFOs.

Continue reading “Rubio y Cruz: Como dos guisantes podridos en una vaina.*”

To Fly or Not to Fly? That is the question.

Commentary

Delta, that is!

I’m sitting in the Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale passenger terminal waiting to board my Allegiant flight to Knoxville, Tennessee. This flight will be my first one in almost 18 months. Given my travel history, this flying hiatus will be my longest in over 40 years.

And yes, this momentous flight will be to Knoxville, not Tokyo or London or San Francisco. And, on Allegiant, the airline that charges you $5 to issue a boarding pass and $3 for water (and not just when they’re flying over Georgia – more on that in a bit).

Why did I choose Knoxville and Allegiant on my first return to the air in a year-and-a-half? Knoxville, easy – family. Allegiant, because they’re the only airline offering non-stop flights between FLL and TYS.

Of course, I could have chosen a more recongnizable carrier to make the flight. And, if I did the most obvious, direct and quickest would have been Delta, which would have required only quick 45 minute change of planes in Atlanta.

Ah, but there’s the rub – Delta!

By now I’m sure you’re aware of the egregious voter suppression law passed by the Georgia legislature and then signed by Governor Brian Kemp in world record time. In fact, I wrote about this sham of a law a few days ago in a post I called, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” https://around-the-block.com/2021/03/27/the-night-the-lights-went-out-in-georgia/.

Since that law was enacted it has faced a groundswell of opposition. And along with opposition to the law, there have been major campaigns to boycott some of the most important Georgia-based corporations in the hope that these powerful companies could pressure the Republican governor and GOP dominated legislature to repeal the law.

While Georgia is home to companies like UPS, Aflac, Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, it has been Coca-Cola and Delta that have been subject to most of the backlash.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Social media posts carrying the hashtags #BoycottDelta, #BoycottDeltaAirlines and #BoycottCocaCola proliferated on Twitter as critics of the Republican-backed legislation accused the two Atlanta-based companies of not having done enough to stop its passage.” The AJC went on to report that over the weekend, #BoycottDelta was one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter.

Why is #BoycottDelta being out tweeted by the others?

Because the airline’s CEO, Ed Bastian issued a statement to employees last Friday saying the bill had “improved considerably during the legislative process” and noted some elements for praise.

In Friday’s statement, Bastian said Delta “engaged extensively” with Republicans and Democrats in the state to “express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls.”

Bastian highlighted some elements of the bill, including expanded weekend voting, the authorization of drop boxes for all counties and the ability of poll workers to work across county lines.

“Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort,” the statement said. “We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote.”

“Improved significantly?” What, did the original bill not only ban water from the voter lines, but make voters stand on one-leg while waiting to vote? Or, did the original language not just empower the state to take over local elections but throw out every third Democratic ballot?

The bigger question is why did Delta “engage extensively” in this process. And, if they did, how did they let this travesty of a law get passed without more pushback? Sure, their “concerns” about some “provisions” of the law are nice to hear, but those concerns are a little late. It’s law Mr. Bastian. And, as I’m sure you, as the outstanding citizen you are, recognize that “laws are laws.”

I guess Delta should be given some credit for their updated statement, issued today, that repudiates their original praise, saying in another Bastian memo to employees that the law was “unacceptable” and “based on a lie” of widespread fraud in last November’s election. 

As the AJC reported, “Bastian said the new voting restrictions will make it harder for underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect representatives in the state.”

“’I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,’ Bastian wrote.”

Why did it take the threat of a boycott to come clean. Did Bastian finally read the law? Because nothing changed. Nothing but the #BoycottDelta campaign and the fear of passenger defection, loss of revenue and bottom erosion? Is that the only thing that moves them to do the right thing?

Well, Mr. Bastian, you might still have some things to worry about. As the AJC also reported today:

“Several Republican legislators said they expect Delta to face retribution for its stance, though it was not immediately clear how that would play out.” 

And, in a classic example of “he said, he said, the esteemed Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, said he was blindsided by Delta’s position, saying that at “no point” did the airline raise objections with his office about some of the controversial provisions in the measure before he signed it into law.

With that, I ask, where is that great TV show “To Tell the Truth” when we need it? Because, somebody isn’t.

“The Filibuster Journals” The worst thing Aaron Burr did.

Commentary

No, it wasn’t that he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton

Many of you have seen “Hamilton,” the breakthrough musical that elevated our most underrated Founding Father to cult status. For those of you who haven’t seen it, do. (Since no one knows when it will be performed live again, you can watch it on Disney Plus – $7.95 for one-month access; cancel after that if you desire.)

While Alexander Hamilton is the hero of the show, like in many other shows, he’s surrounded by a large cast of characters, some good and others bad.

Continue reading ““The Filibuster Journals” The worst thing Aaron Burr did.”

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

Commentary

‘This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century’

It’s not often that a song by a man named Bobby Russell, written in 1972, becomes a number one hit for Vicki Lawrence on the 1973 Billboard Hot 100, a hit again in 1991 when Reba McEntire recorded it, reaching number 12 on Hot Country Songs and then is so prescient that it could foretell what would happen in Georgia in 2021.*

You see, folks, on Thursday, March 25, 2021, thanks to the fine Republicans in Georgia’s legislature and to that model governor, Brian Kemp, the lights went out in Georgia.

Continue reading “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”

One of these things is not like the others…

Commentary

Unless they are…

Note: This is the first Around the Block post in over a month. Why? For a number of reasons. I’ve been busy doing research for a collection of short stories I’m writing. I’ve also been catching up on both my leisure and educational reading. But most of all, the lapse in posting Around the Block commentary is that I’ve discovered that there’s not much I can add to what’s already been written and/or discussed in the past several weeks. Perhaps it’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s because Trump is gone. Perhaps it’s simply that the litany of GOP/right-wing lies, duplicity, mendacity, not to mention down-right stupidity, is just numbing. Maybe a break was just what I needed. Having said all that, the events of the last few days changed things. While I can’t promise that today’s post will herald a new, more consistent Around the Block – which might be good news for many of you (although there might be a second one to be posted in the next day or so – which might be bad news for many of you). But, perhaps it will herald a new chapter in this blog: occasional musings on what piques or, rather, discomposes my interests.

Continue reading “One of these things is not like the others…”

February 23, 2021 – a date that will live in disgrace, shame, disrepute and odium!

Commentary

Thanks, Ron Johnson, for not making our day.

On January 7, 2021, I posted an Around the Block headlined, January 6, 2021, a date that will live in ignominy!

It began,

“December 7th will forever be remembered as ‘a date that will live in infamy.’”

“September 11th will forever be remembered as the ‘9/11 attack.’”

”January 6 will forever be remembered as ‘a date that will live in ignominy.’”

Now, February 23, 2021 will be known, at least regarding the Senate of the United States of America, as the date that will live in disgrace, shame, disrepute and odium!

Why?

Continue reading “February 23, 2021 – a date that will live in disgrace, shame, disrepute and odium!”