I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!

Commentary

The recent news has been mind-bogglingly frightful. And then…

Perhaps I subscribe to too many newspapers and magazines. Perhaps 24-hour cable news is too many hours. But, I don’t know about you and, with apologies to William Shakespeare, “there’s something rotten in the state of America.”

A sampling of recent headlines:

Continue reading “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

Cleveland Indians changing name to Cleveland Guardians

Commentary

C’mon Cleveland, is that all you got?

Multiple news sources reported today that the Cleveland Major League Baseball team is changing its name next season from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians. The name change comes after years of criticism that the current moniker is racist and disrespectful to Native Americans.

The name change comes at a time when many sports teams, including MLB’s Atlanta Braves, NFL’s Kansas City Chief and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks are under pressure to adopt new names. It also follows the recent move by the NFL’s Washington franchise to discard their historical nickname, the Redskins. Unlike the move by Cleveland, the Washington team has not been able to decide upon a new name and has been known simply as the Washington Football Team for over a year.

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Trump loyalists top McCarthy’s list of picks for the Jan. 6 inquiry, signaling a partisan brawl

Commentary

Truth, justice and the American way – GOP style

House Minority Leader Joseph McCarthy…er…Kevin McCarthy (sorry, Freudian keyboard slip) announced which of his members will serve on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. 

The lawmakers are Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Jim Banks (Ind.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) and Troy E. Nehls (Texas).

Continue reading “Trump loyalists top McCarthy’s list of picks for the Jan. 6 inquiry, signaling a partisan brawl”

Who would’ve thought the Kingston Trio could predict the future

Commentary

All they needed were a few lyrical updates

The recent headlines from America and, indeed, around the world, have been horrific. Apocalyptic, even.

A sampling:

Portland records all-time high temperature of 116, setting new record for third day in a row

Continue reading “Who would’ve thought the Kingston Trio could predict the future”

Cancel Culture: County opts to honor Black professor, not slave owner

Commentary

We need to follow Johnson County’s lead and get real (and efficient) about “Cancel Culture” name changes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m conflicted about this “cancel culture” phenomenon, particularly the part in which public institutions are being considered for a name change because they’re named after an individual who is now considered unfit for the honor.

Continue reading “Cancel Culture: County opts to honor Black professor, not slave owner”

Poland, America, Racism and Anti-Semitism

Commentary

Systemic? Individual actions? When it comes to prejudices, it is, indeed, a small world, after all.

Poland holds a special place for our family.

Sharon’s father was born in Łomza, Poland, emigrating to America when he was seven-years old. Because he was originally a Polish citizen, after much research, several years of pulling documents together and finally employing a Polish immigration lawyer, Sharon and our two daughters received Polish citizenship and passports entitling them to full EU rights of travel and residency – I will have to get a Polish “green card,” I guess.

Beyond that, years of investigation and chasing down both leads and dead ends, we were able to trace Sharon’s Polish paternal family back to the early 19th century. We even created a presentation:

Continue reading “Poland, America, Racism and Anti-Semitism”

Education – then and now

Commentary

Then: Conquistadors were heroes; Now: Racism isn’t systemic; it’s just a bunch of individual racists.

I recently posted a column, “The revelations of a road trip,” which was sub-headed, “How a drive in Florida reminded me of what I learned and didn’t learn in school.” You can read the column here: https://around-the-block.com/2021/06/04/the-revelations-of-a-road-trip/.

Among the comments I received was this one from a reader named Laura who wrote,

Continue reading “Education – then and now”

Florida, my Florida

Commentary

Despite being the butt of late night comics’ jokes, there are a lot of good things about Florida. But then every once in a while…

When Sharon and I announced that we would be moving to Florida at a dinner in Marin County with some of closest friends, the reaction was a combination of general sadness and extreme incredulity.

“Florida? Did you say, Florida?”

Continue reading “Florida, my Florida”

The land where almost no one visited and its favorite son, Joe, Duke of Manchin

A Fable

The story of one ambitious man’s rise to power, influence and breathtaking lack of irony.

Once upon a time there was a land where almost no one visited. The land was unblessed, except for one thing. Black, dusty stuff that came out of the ground. No one in this land knew what to do with this black, dusty stuff until one cold winter day, a man living in this unblessed land, after lighting his pipe, threw the still flaming match on a pile of the black, dusty stuff and, wonder of wonders, the black, dusty ignited, warming the man and all his friends nearby. On that day, no one in this unblessed land where almost no one visited was ever cold again.

Unfortunately, the black, dusty stuff didn’t come out of the ground by itself; it had to be taken out from deep below the ground, in places called mines, by men with picks and shovels. The work was hard and the men often got sick from the black dust the black stuff spread. The sickness these hard working men got became known as “black lung disease.” The miners, as they became to be called, made little money, barely providing for their families. The sons of these miners followed their fathers into the mines; their daughters married other miners. And so it went.

Although education wasn’t a priority for the people of this land, there was one thing they knew well. And that was the difference between north and south and east and west. And that the land just to the east of their land where almost no one ever visited was named, “Virginia.” So, in their geographic wisdom these people named their land, “West Virginia.” But, alas, the aura of Virginia didn’t rub off and they remained poor.

Many years later an ambitious boy from this land that almost no one visited, this land now called West Virginia, was born. Unlike many of their neighbors, the men from this boy’s family did not go under the ground with picks and shovels; this boy’s family were merchants and didn’t want this boy to become a miner. So, they sent him to college. The boy’s name was Joe.

When Joe went to college he discovered that he liked to party. So, although the most popular parties were the ones thrown by the GammaOmegaPi (ΓΩΠ)fraternity (or GOP), ambitious Joe thought it would be better for his ambitions to go to the parties run by the the school’s smaller, “Jackass Club” (soon to be called the “Donkey Club,” then, simply, the “Dems”) where there would be less competition and he could more easily become one of the leaders.

It worked, and soon after, Joe rose to the top, not only of the Dems but of all of the land now called West Virginia – ultimately to be named King of the Land.

But Joe was not happy being King. Despite having heard that much further north there was another king, Max of Bialystok, also known as the King of Old Broadway, was fond of saying, “It’s good to be King,” Joe didn’t think it was good. Frankly, he didn’t like all the work the King of West Virginia had to do. And he certainly didn’t like having to meet with the poor, poorly educated black-faced miners with black lung disease and their barely educated families (black-faced and diseased due to the dust from the black, dusty stuff, now called coal, that they had to dig up from the ground).

So King Joe abdicated and, still a Dem in a land where the majority of the people love the GOP, became Joe, Duke of Manchin, and was surprisingly elected to be something known as a senator where he was able to play out his ambitions across all the lands that made up the Empire of America.

Although when Joe, Duke of Manchin came to the Senate he was still a Dem, he realized that because the land of West Virginia, where no one ever visited, loved the GOP so much, he would have to call himself a Dem but act like GammaOmegaPi or he would end up going home to West Virginia, no longer a duke and with no one visiting him – because no one ever visited the land now called West Virginia. So, Joe, Duke of Manchin became known as a “DINO,” a “Dem In Name Only.”

As Joe, Duke of Manchin learned more and more about the rules of this place they called the Senate, he became more and more enamored of them. One rule he learned about was a thing called the “filibuster.” But since Joe, Duke of Manchin had only heard the word but never saw it written down, he first thought it was a “Phillybuster,” similar to a sandwich delicacy created in a land just north of West Virginia, in a land called Philadelphia, called a “Philly cheese steak,” only bigger and bustier.

But soon Joe, Duke of Manchin learned that the filibuster was not a sandwich and was, in fact, first established by an evil man named Sir Aaron of Burr, and was an arcane rule, that threatened democracy throughout the land. He also heard from his fellow Dems that this filibuster must be overturned if democratic legislation was to be passed and democracy was to survive. But true to his DINO status, Joe, Duke of Manchin sided with his old GOP friends and would not vote to overturn the filibuster no matter the consequences, saying, it was an institution of the Senate and that he was keeping with the wishes of his mentor from the land of West Virginia, Lord Robert of Byrd. The Duke’s position on the filibuster was derided by his Dem colleagues but was greeted by the senior GOP leader, Count McConnell of Moscow with many huzzahs!

As for the Duke’s Dem friends, even more difficult for them to understand than his position on the filibuster was his vote against a proposed law, the For the People Act, that would, in an effort to help to preserve American democracy, roll back dozens of partisan laws being passed by Republican state legislatures to limit early and mail-in voting, empower bi-partisan poll watchers, restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. Among dozens of other provisions, it would also require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no excuse absentee balloting.

The Duke, not noting the irony, explained his position this way. “The fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.”

When confronted by voting rights expert, Reb Ari Berman of Brooklyn, who said, “I don’t recall Republicans asking for bipartisan support before they introduced 400 voter suppression bills & enacted 22 new voter suppression laws in 14 states so far this year, ” Joe, Duke of Manchin said that he was late for a meeting and was not addressing any questions. Reb Ari of Brooklyn never asked the Duke about the irony of his position, remembering that neither DINOs nor GOP members understood the meaning of the word.

Epilogue

Although the filibuster remained and the For the People Act was not passed, the Dems, in spite of DINOs like Joe, the Duke of Manchin and Kyrsten, Baroness of Sinema, rallied their forces and overcame GOP efforts to suppress voting; they won significant majorities in the elections in the year 2022.

And, Joe, Duke of Manchin? Despite his DINO status, and true to the nature of the land of West Virginia, the land that no one visited, he ran for reelection in the year 2024 as a Dem and was handedly defeated by a bonafide member of the GOP party. But by this point, it didn’t matter. And, neither did the filibuster. Why? Because the efforts of the Dems to overcome partisan voter suppression laws were so successful they ended up controlling this place called the Senate 62-40*. And everyone, except Joe, Duke of Manchin and Count McConnell of Moscow lived happily ever after under the loving reign of Queen Kamala of Oakland who was followed by King Pete of Buttigieg, who was followed by…

Wait, me thinks this fable is getting ahead of itself.

(*By 2023 the land known as Washington DC had become what is known as a state and was awarded two senators, expanding the Senate to 102 members. And, in 2025, the land known as Puerto Rico also became a state and was also awarded two senators, further expanding the Senate to 104 members. Subsequent to this second expansion, in the election of 2026, the Dems controlled this newly expanded Senate, 64-40.)

Federal judge overturns California’s ban on assault weapons

Commentary

Ruling leads to the first annual Around the Block “One of these things is not like the others” contest

Before we get deep into the headlined story, I thought it might be fun if we’d first take a break and warm up with the first annual Around the Block “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others” contest. The rules are simple: look at the images below and put an “X” under the image you believe is not like the others. I’ll give you a few minutes to choose and then, because Around the Block has not yet evolved into an interactive blog, provide the answers below.

So, now it’s time to play,

“One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others”

I’ll give you time to think.

Ok, I understand a few of you are struggling to come up with the answer, so I’ll provide you with a hint:

I know, I know. This is tricky. I mean there are two Ruger assault weapons, but they’re different…one’s a rifle, the other a pistol. And a Swiss Army Knife? Clearly different, you say.

Well, time’s up. And the answer: not one of those things is different. In fact, they’re all the same. At least according to the Federal judge who overturned California’s 22-year old ban on assault weapons.

How so? This is how so:

As reported by CNN,

In a ruling that compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife, a federal judge overturned California’s longtime ban on assault weapons on Friday, ruling it violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. 

According to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego, the assault weapons ban deprives Californians from owning assault-style weapons commonly allowed in other states. Benitez issued a permanent injunction Friday so the law cannot be enforced. 

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in the ruling. “Firearms deemed as ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

Just to put your mind at ease that this wasn’t a sudden epiphany on the fine judge’s part, CNN went on to report that “…Last year, Benitez ruled California’s ban on high-capacity magazines was unconstitutional. He also struck down the state’s restriction on remote purchases of gun ammunition.”

Now, as heinous as this ruling appears, and it will be appealed by the state, there is this one niggling question. According to reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle,

California, the most populous state in the nation and home to some of its strictest gun laws, was also the site of the most active shooter incidents over the past two decades, according to a new FBI report.

The Golden State saw 42 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2019, a figure more than 50% higher than the 27 shootings recorded in Florida, the state with the second-highest number of such attacks.

So, I guess the question is, do laws really matter? I believe they do. But while we’re thinking about and writing these laws, not just at the state but at the Federal level as well, there’s another critical path: How about a complete re-interpretation of one of the most abused amendments to the Constitution. Yes, you originalists out there, do you really think the Founders meant to protect the rights of people to carry and use the kinds of weapons freely (and now in California, more freely) available when they wrote this convoluted Second Amendment sentence:

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.

The late, not-so-great NRA is fond of saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Or, “It’s not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” I guess that sentiment is why we’re supposed to have waiting periods and background checks. But then there’s Texas and Tennessee which, along with 19 other states, have laws that allow the carrying of handguns, both openly and concealed, without a license or the need for training. Will background checks and waiting periods be next on the gun control chopping block. Crazy!

Finally, while I’m on the subject of crazy:

Former President Donald Trump said a radio host’s suggestion that he run for a House seat in 2022 in a bid to become Speaker and consequently launch an impeachment investigation against President Joe Biden was “very interesting.”

During an interview on Friday afternoon with VRAinsider.com, far-right radio host Wayne Allyn Root suggested that Trump runs for Congress in a bid to “wipe” Biden out.

“Why not, instead of waiting for 2024, and I’m hoping you’ll run in 2024, but why not run in 2022 for the United States Congress? A House seat in Florida. Win big. Lead us to a dramatic landslide victory. Take the House by 50 seats,” Root said.

“Then you become the Speaker of the House, lead the impeachment of Biden and start criminal investigations against Biden. You’ll wipe him out for this last two years,” the radio host continued.

When Katharine Lee Bates wrote these words at the turn of the 20th Century, do you think she could have ever imagined an America like ours?

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!