Guns, knives, pit bulls and the new Gallup poll

CATEGORY: GunsThis morning I walked past a man about my age, sixty, who was wearing camouflage and a fatigue-style cap. He had two Bowie knives on his belt and was walking a ferocious-looking pit bull that had to weigh eighty pounds.

My immediate thought was, “Who’s this guy and what’s he afraid of?”

Who knows? Maybe he’s got good reason to be afraid. Maybe he’s in witness protection and the Mafia just put his home address up on their Facebook page. Or he just started a Salman Rushdie fan club. Or he’s a disguised federal prosecutor from Texas.

But I doubt it. I suspect he’s an extreme example of a surprisingly large group of people who are paranoid, perhaps not in clinical psychological terms, but in a not-quite-right sort of way. He’s obviously afraid of something, and whatever it is might show up at any minute on a quiet residential street in a nice small town like Bloomington, Indiana.

I’ve spent much of my life around poor and poorly educated white people and have met many folks who remind me of this guy. I’ve had them proudly pull handguns out from under their car seats and when I asked why they needed guns in their cars, the generic answer is they want to be ready in case somebody “messes with them.”

Who are the somebodies that’re going to mess with them, I always wonder?

I’ve asked that, too.

Sometimes the answer is enemies of the U.S. It’s hard to see how Muslims, or Russians, or Mexican cartels are going to mount an attack in the U.S., especially in central Indiana, but it’s always possible I suppose. No doubt those Bowie knives will scare a Spetsnaz or mujahedeen with an AK-47 right back to whatever unpronounceable place they came from.

Sometimes the answer is the government. However, most of the paranoid people I know are right-wingers. If the government helicopters ever do come, it’s far more likely they will have Christian crosses on the side and be coming not for righties, but rather for lefties like me. The great victory of the Nixon Youth has proven not to be a successful ideology that won most Americans over to their way of thinking, but rather a concerted and successful plan to infiltrate and take over the U.S. military. Motto: If we can’t convince ‘em, we can still kill ‘em.

Sometimes it’s their neighbors who might mess with them. This isn’t so silly a fear. According to the FBI, there are over a million violent crimes per year in the U.S. That means on average, a citizen has a one in 300 chance of being assaulted, raped or murdered each year, which says that one in four people will be assaulted, raped or murdered in their lifetimes. Now, of course, most of the people being assaulted tend to be young minority men in urban areas, not college-educated white people who live in the suburbs. But the man with the pit bull didn’t look well-to-do, and it’s entirely possible he lives in one of those neighborhoods.

Sometimes it’s people of color who will invade their homes in the night. According to hot-off-the-shelf Gallup data, 43% of Americans own and keep a gun in the home (I’m one of them.) Of these, 67% own one for self-protection (I’m not one of them.) Obviously, there’s a real fear here. Perhaps In Cold Blood scared the shit out an entire generation. It’s hard to say how real the perceived home invasion threat is. There are no reliable statistics on how many occur each year. Violent home invasions are probably relatively rare. But they happen and they are horrible. When they do happen, it’s usually to the poor and vulnerable. My mother was the victim of a violent home invasion by a man of color.

So the guy with the knives could be afraid of lots of things. Mujahedeen. The government. Neighbors. Strangers that come in the night.

Or not. I suspect President Obama had it right back in 2008. What people like the man I saw walking his dog really have to fear is that the world is leaving them behind. They lack the skills and education to catch up. The world economy is messing with them, it ain’t gonna stop, and they should be afraid. They can’t easily buy cheap protection against economic trends, so they arm themselves in the ways they can. They cling to defenses they know against threats they don’t.

I once worked on a dredge in Louisiana, a mammoth crane on a barge that dug canals through the delta. The digging was done by what’s known as a clam bucket which hangs by thick wire ropes from a boom. The bucket had two inch thick steel walls and was eight feet tall and big enough to put a half-dozen men in.

One day the bucket took a big mouthful of dirt and water and snagged a muskrat. The small animal was caught by one leg, and it hung there suspended fifty feet in the air, frantically trying to push open the bucket with its other foot. Kenneth, the operator, opened the bucket and let it go. He laughed about it for weeks, the idea of a muskrat trying to outmuscle a giant machine. He’d mimic the muskrat, contorting his face and imitating the animal’s frantic efforts.

Of course, if you’re a muskrat, and some giant force from the sky suddenly grabs you in massive steel jaws, you have to bite and push, because that’s all you know to do.

If you’re poor, you buy knives and pit bulls.

An open letter to former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney: STFU

On Sunday, the University of Colorado fired head football coach Jon Embree after two seasons. Reaction has been mixed and at times heated. Some point to the results, noting not only the 4-21 record but also suggesting that the program was actually regressing. Others argued that Embree inherited a dumpster fire from previous coach Dan Hawkins and that it was unrealistic and patently unfair not to give him more than two seasons to turn things around. I personally felt that Embree’s hiring was a mistake in the first place and that he was never likely to succeed, given two years, three years or ten years. That said, I have a long, well-established track record of being wrong about CU and its football coaches, so I’m the furthest thing from an expert opinion here. Suffice it to say that I see both sides of the argument and believe each has merit.

Then yesterday, former coach Bill McCartney, regarded by some in Colorado as the Word of God on football matters, weighed in with an open letter on Embree’s firing. As the man who recruited and coached Embree, an outstanding tight end in his playing days, Coach Mac’s position on the subject surprised no one.

I encouraged [Embree] to pursue coaching. He preceded to build a solid résumé.

Finally, CU hired one of its own. Not only that, but with a pedigree that was exemplary. This guy is good.

To short-circuit a five-year contract before two full years is an indictment of true integrity. Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as utter sincerity, honesty, candor, not artificial, not shallow, no empty promises.

“One of its own.” That was part of the problem, actually – pro-McCartney-era voices “encouraging” the AD into a questionable hire. One local media analyst – the guy I regard as the best and smartest in town, in fact – has really good contacts and insight into the workings of the athletic department at CU; he went so far as to use the word “bully” in describing the process.

The “finally” part is troublesome, too. While Embree might be the first former player hired to the job, the school previously hired a couple of McCartney assistants – fellows named “Neuheisel” and “Barnett” – and those didn’t work out so well, either.

Still, I knew what was coming when I read the word “integrity.” I wasn’t disappointed.

Men and women of Colorado, don’t let this happen. Please weigh in. This is wrong. It undermines the values of the university.

“Values of the university.” Let’s examine this, because the man throwing around all this noble language has a credibility problem.

McCartney’s early years as coach at CU were undistinguished – he only seven games in his first three years, and that third year produced a 1-10 mark. Fine. It’s a university, not an NFL franchise.

His fortunes improved dramatically once he decided to…well, put it this way. He and his staff devoted very little effort to making sure their new recruits were choirboys. Commencing with the 1987 season, his teams won 73 games in eight years, including a mythical (and highly controversial split “national title” in 1990. Meanwhile his players were keeping Boulder law enforcement busy. From 1986-89, for instance, two dozen CU student-athletes were arrested on a variety of charges, including sexual assault.

Mr. Character. And a Man of God® – McCartney is the founder of the Promise Keepers, remember. More on that in a second, but now back to that national championship. It wouldn’t have happened save for one of the worst officiating flubs in major sports history. The ref crew, with CU trying to punch in the winning TD at the end of the game, lost track and allowed Colorado to score on a 5th down play. McCartney – the one quoted above making a big deal out of “integrity,” “sincerity” and “honesty,” of course did the noble thing, right?

Ummm, no.

Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, a former Missouri Tigers player, did little to soothe the controversy. Asked whether he would consider forfeiting the game, McCartney declared that he had considered it but decided against it because “the field was lousy.”

Do as I say, not as I do, I suppose.

What else? Oh, right. Promise Keepers. An organization built on principles of female subservience and homophobia.

From a CU podium in 1992, McCartney referred to homosexuality as “an abomination against almighty God” in support of Amendment 2, which prohibited laws protecting gays from discrimination.

Not only did Coach Mac say these hateful things, he did so backed by the CU logo, lending the appearance that the university community agreed with him. Trust me, it didn’t, and he was officially reprimanded for doing so. McCartney was so bad that the school had to adopt official policy prohibiting the kinds of activity he repeatedly engaged in.

All of which leads me back to McCartney’s words in his open letter: “It undermines the values of the university.” And a question: Coach McCartney, what do you know about the “values of the university”? For that matter, what do you know about the values of any university?

In point of fact, everything he stood for, from the recruitment of players who were archetypally unsuited for a university community to his repeated insistence on advocating Old Testament morality in an environment dedicated to progress, intellect and enlightenment, was directly counter to “university principles.”

Dear Coach McCartney: Shut. The fuck. Up. Every time you open your mouth you devalue my degree a little more. You were an embarrassment to the CU community as a coach and when you seize the microphone now all you do is remind us of your hypocrisy and the fundamental corruption of your ideology.

Worse, you taint our opinions of men like Jon Embree. I don’t know much about him as a person, although he struck me as dedicated, hardworking and decent. The more you wrap your forked tongue around his firing, the more I tend to evaluate him in terms of you. In that light, losing his job is only the second-worst thing that’s happened to him this week.

Please. Shut up and go away.

Penn State's sports culture is the rule, not the exception

by Brian Moritz

News of the punishment came down first thing on Monday morning, July 23.

More than eight months after scandal first broke at Penn State, about a month after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation, two weeks after the Freeh Report blasted Penn State leadership and former coach Joe Paterno for covering up the allegations, and one day after the statue of Paterno was removed from Beaver Stadium, the NCAA handed down its sanctions against the program.

The punishments are harsh, severe, and justified. The $60 million eats up more than half of the profits Penn State’s athletic department earns annually. The postseason ban means the team is basically playing four years of exhibition games. The scholarship restrictions mean that it will be 2020 before Penn State fields a football team with four full scholarship classes. Vacating 111 wins is a final punishment for the late Paterno, who had been the sport’s all-time winningest coach. Continue reading

Penn State deserves the "death penalty" – they forgot their mission

<by Rafael Noboa y Rivera

Should Penn State’s football program receive the “death penalty”? The NCAA – far more swiftly than most expected – is set to hand down its decision at 9 AM Eastern, so by the time you read this, we will already know what the sentence will be.

I say sentence, because thanks to the Freeh Report, the university has already been found guilty, if only in the court of public morality.

Many of my friends — some with very close ties to Happy Valley, whether as alumni, fans or residents — have vehemently disagreed with me through the course of the scandal. Continue reading

July 5, 2012: Nothing's changed. The American dream continues to erode

Hope you enjoyed your hot dogs, Mom, apple pie, fireworks, and the inevitable flourishes of patriotism, both faux and real, on the Fourth of July. But nothing has changed in America from the July 3 that kissed you good night to the July 5 that nudged you awake you this morning.

Political warfare by any name is still war. Call it what you will: The haves vs. the have-nots, class warfare, or ideological conflict — it’s still a cruel war, and it inflicts wounds on far too many of us. Some are deep: The bank took the house. Some are possibly fatal: The insurance company wouldn’t pay for the surgery. Or the drugs for that cancer. Some will fester for a lifetime: College students face a one-trillion-dollar student loan debt. Some are a perpetual itch that scratching does not relieve: There will be no pay raise next year, and your contribution to the company’s health plan will double. Continue reading

Lindsay Lohan to run for Congress? Why we should vote for her

The strikingly beautiful young woman — she will turn 26 years old on July 2 — approaches the podium with its waiting forest of microphones. Her hair, reddish blonde and flowing well below her shoulders, is caught briefly in a gust of wind as she walks to the front of the press corps on the granite steps of the state capitol. Eight fluted Corinthian columns line the portico behind her. She is, surprisingly, modestly and professionally dressed in a tasteful navy pants suit. For a moment, as she stands at the lectern, only the clicking of cameras is heard.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Lindsay Lohan, and today I am announcing my candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from my district.

Brief silence, followed by peals of laughter. Whispers of “Is this a movie promo?” drift through the throng. Lohan waits patiently, quietly, proudly for the laughter to subside. Continue reading

Facebook: the most congenitally dishonest company in America

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

Did you know you have a Facebook email address? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. But if you have a Facebook account you have a Facebook email. And that email is now your default email on FB.

WTF? You didn’t do that. NOBODY would do that. As Kashmir Hill writes at Forbes, it’s a lame attempt by our friends at Facebook to force their service on you. Gervais Markham is even more pointed:

In other words, Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. Continue reading

Lakers/Nuggets post-mortem: I told you so, sorta

About last night. Here’s what I predicted. Here’s what happened. A few brief comments and then we’ll put it to bed.

First, the officials did indeed arrive in a clown car and, as expected, they spent a great deal of time hosing the guys in blue shirts down with seltzer. In the end, though, their performance probably wasn’t much worse than it is during any other game, so your final grades will reflect whether or not your gauges are calibrated to “basic competence” or “sucked about like they normally do.” Continue reading

Is it a felony when companies ask for Facebook passwords? My letter to the FBI…

Network SecurityIt has recently come to my attention that you thought it would be really clever to ask prospective employees for their Facebook passwords so that you could peek under the hood and see all the goodies about them that they don’t care to make public. I’m not entirely sure what it is you hoped to gain by this malicious little bit of snoopery, but I can assure you that, were our roles reversed, I would certainly not hire the likes of someone like you who thinks this is a good idea.

First, let’s visit the patently obvious. You seek to hire individuals that, for whatever reason, are willing to give their private, sensitive information to someone they barely know. Is that seriously the kind of security risk you intend to hire? If so, you’re a moron.

Second, let’s take a look at the slightly less obvious, Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You might remember this document. It’s the one you blithely ignored when you decided it would be a great fucking idea to compromise the security of people’s accounts for your own nefarious purposes. Here’s a few choice bits you should read more closely, or even at all, for that matter. Continue reading

Dear "small government" conservatives: that Thoreau quote doesn't mean what you think it means

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, they say. How true, how true, especially when it comes to reducing the wisdom of brilliant, complex minds to their pithiest quotes. In a recent thread on what has become of the GOP, one commenter went all-in with Henry David Thoreau’s famous (and greatly abused) edict: that government is best which governs the least. (Thoreau was actually quoting someone else, but he endorsed the idea, so let’s go with it.)

As I explained at the time, I used to be an enthusiastic young Republican and I was known to quote that line myself. Granted, I was just spouting something I’d heard others say – I hadn’t actually read Civil Disobedience. But by gods, it sounded good. It’s brief, it’s clever, it has the smell of truthiness about it and it comes with the credibility that automatically attends canonical high school reading assignments, even if we hated them at the time.

But there are a couple of problems with the quote. Continue reading

Romney, Santorum benefit local broadcast outlets in Michigan

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney emerged from an expensive and bruising campaign in Michigan, the state of his birth, with a narrow three percent victory over his current chief rival, Rick Santorum, in the overall vote counts. He tied with Rick Santorum, however, in the delegate count. Michigan is not a winner-take-all primary state. Santorum and Romney each won seven of Michigan’s 14 Congressional districts. So each man gets 14 delegate votes for the convention.

On election night the Detroit Free Press produced an interactive county by county map of the primary results. It shows Romney did well in southeast Michigan, the more densely populated Saginaw Bay area and the tip of the mitt. Santorum scored better on the state’s west side and in less populated areas with strong Christian fundamentalists and in much of the Upper Peninsula. The cult charge against the Mormon Romney likely helped.

CBS political war horse and commentator Bob Schieffer made some insightful comments about Romney’s traction problem on the network’s morning news show Wednesday. Continue reading

Heroes, villains, victims and pawns: looking back at the Joe Paterno legacy

Joe Paterno is dead. Lots has been written and more will be added to the pile in the coming days and weeks. So let me add my two cents while the thoughts are fresh in my mind.

Had the last few months not happened we’d now be anointing JoePa for sainthood. As you’ve been told so many times before, and are now hearing all over again, he was all that was good and true in collegiate athletics, a man who did things the right way, etc. The thing is, that’s a woefully simplistic commentary on Paterno and how he did business. Also, the last few months did happen. So we now find ourselves needing to address Paterno’s legacy in two parts. Let’s do the ugly bit first. Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

Stuart O'Steen is not a crook

But he is Richard Nixon.

Stuart, longtime friend to S&R, is a veteran stage actor who portrays the former president in the Longmont (Colorado) Theatre Company‘s ambitious take on Frost/Nixon.

I had the great pleasure of recently seeing the production. As a politics junkie and student of American political history, particularly of the Watergate debacle, I couldn’t pass it up. And I anticipated from having seen Stuart’s remarkable performance as Robert Scott in 2009’s Terra Nova that he would surely immerse himself in this unique role as well.

My high expectations were Continue reading

Herman Cain is unfit to be President

I have no idea whether Herman Cain did or did not assault the four women who have accused him of sexual assault. But something he said during his press conference last Tuesday has me very suspicious. According to news reports, Cain said the following at least twice:

I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.

Why does this statement make me suspicious, you ask? Simply put, any man who makes this claim and isn’t the second coming of Jesus is a liar.

I don’t know a single man who hasn’t acted inappropriately with regard to a woman (or another man, if gay) at some point in his adult life. Some men brag about their sexual conquests to their buddies or on social media. Some mime sexual acts to make their boorish buddies laugh. Some quote inappropriate comedians at socially awkward times. Some reveal personal secrets they were told by a woman in confidence. Continue reading

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading