Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For fifty years, I have been struck by the transformation which grips so many liberal, secular, humane American Jews – and I have known plenty -- when talk turns to Israel.

Recently, I think of the phenomenon as a condition of mind, an emotional affliction. Possibly something akin to William Kunstler’s highly debatable “Black Rage” syndrome, at least in its intensity and ethnic peculiarity. Sometimes I think of it as “Jewish Disease.”

By which I mean -- what?

In a word, “Israel.” In a phrase, “An emotional attachment to Israel and its perceived interests.”

The term describes a set of connected feelings, thought patterns, and behaviors -- in this case mainly verbal and expressive behaviors, except where emigrant settlers from Philadelphia and Brooklyn are involved.

I would not label Armenian-Americans’ historic sentiments this way, or Japanese-Americans’ fascination with Hawaii, or Italian-American braggadocio or Boston’s weakness for the IRA. This in a class by itself because of the involved feelings, ideation, and consequences.

Feelings Associated with Jewish Disease

This condition is distinguished by loyalty and anger.

The intensity of the sufferer’s loyalty may influence his or her susceptibility to rage. More likely, anger levels will reflect the individual’s general emotional equilibrium.

Loyalty has probably been with us from our pack days.

At the national level, it is conventionally awarded to one’s own country, native or adopted. Divided loyalties have been all too frequently attributed to “foreign” communities -- East African Hindus, Indonesian Chinese, European Jews. Such communities have been persecuted -- in at least two of these cases, genocidally -- for alleged lack of national loyalty.

Many American Jews experience deep loyalty to Israel. Even those nominally critical of Israel’s expansionist behavior or ad hoc theology identify themselves fiercely with its prerogatives. I have asked J. D. sufferers which country would command their loyalty should the two become antagonistic -- and heard a range of answers.

Most Americans do not regard Israeli loyalties as a fault. More often, Zionist sentiments are considered admirable by Jews and non-Jews alike. This will probably continue until Israel is popularly perceived as causing more trouble than it is worth.

Loyalty cannot be considered pathological, except when wrongly attached, i.e. to a criminal organization, destructive person, or wrong-headed cause. Then it may contribute to a social or political pathology. Patriotism is one good example. Many progressive J.D. sufferers reject bellicose American flag-waving for the horrors it enables. They will not renounce the other nearly so quickly.

Anger has a more distinctly harmful profile. Symptomatic of other psychiatric conditions, anger causes violence. Symptomatic of Jewish Disease, anger impedes clear thought and disrupts friendly gatherings. Get these people started and they cannot let it alone.

Some yell. Some leave the room. Some seethe. All interrupt. It is a compulsive, abiding anger. It suggests inner conflict. The people I know -- know better. I know that. They see footage of babies blown apart and think … I can’t imagine what.

But they behave as though impelled to defend the practice. Often as not, the defense become enraged.

Thought Patterns Associated with Jewish Disease

The condition permits harmonious persistence of these two fundamentally contradictory ideas: 1. Israel serves as a refuge and safe haven for all Jews, and 2. Jews face graver danger in Israel than anywhere else.

Sufferers defend this paradox largely by ignoring or denying it. They address other factual and moral contradictions with an array of well-known, vigorously asserted ideas.

Grounding all these ideas is the proposition that hostile Muslim behavior must always be seen in its worst light, and all hostile Israeli behavior in its best light. This master conceit enables:

An opportunistic attachment to the word: “terrorist.

This arrangement of syllables has come a long way since Ariel Sharon used it to describe any unappreciative person or suspect action in occupied Lebanon twenty five years ago. It got a mighty boost on 9/11. Some think that’s why Israelis jumped for joy on the Jersey side of the Hudson as they watched the towers tumble.

Since then, it has become a sacrament for hundreds of millions. J.D. sufferers pronounce it compulsively during any discussion of the Middle East. It’s used to describe all active resistance to the hostile occupation of Palestine.

The phrase operates like a drug in bucking up outrage and short-circuiting errant focus on contravening facts or reasons.

It dominates the vast rattle of talking head opinion in print, and on radio, network, and cable TV – where the condition is endemic in its core form and its non-Jewish variation: Jewish Disease by Proxy.

Emphasis on hostile thoughts.

Hostile thoughts include belief systems and verbalizations written or spoken – real, imagined, or mistranslated for the purpose.

Often, hostile expressions and beliefs are presented as requiring a decisive physical response. For example, the Israelis must impose a devastating blockade on Gaza because Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist. Iran may need to be bombed because its leaders aspire to nuclear weapons and Ahmedinjad wants to wipe Israel off the map. The Jewish state is justified in bombing houses as long as Jew Hatred prevails because they all want to kill Jews and teach their children that Jews are bad.

Jewish Disease rules out consideration of whether or not the hostile words and thoughts suggest ability to do harm. The words are the problem; thoughts pose threats; intent equates to danger.

Listen to the language. The theme predominates.

Here, Jewish Disease resembles other paranoid formations by confusing real or imagined hostile wishes with material threats. Of course, it is the rare paranoid who gets to level the neighborhood.

The deeply held conviction that Israel faces an existential threat from the Muslim world.

The word “existential” denotes a threat to existence – in this case to the existence of the state of Israel. It has no other reasonable meaning. With regard to the existence of the Jewish state:
Israel has dominated the region militarily since 1967, when its attack on three Arab nations demonstrated invulnerability to military defeat. Its only reversal came in Israeli-occupied Egypt in 1973, from which embarrassment Israel was rescued by the United States -- then as now reliably influenced by the Israeli interest – using the arguably dangerous tactic of nuclear threat against the Soviet Union.

Since 1973 Israel has repeatedly invaded Lebanon without a hint of intervention from other Muslim lands. Israelis have overflown, invaded, and wiped out Lebanese and Palestinians at will and whim -- in ways that other nations rarely do – with fully merited confidence in their ability to do so without risk. They have bombed Syria and Iraq with equal impunity. They have meddled directly in the politics of Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq without fear of consequence.
They have occupied and exploited Syrian and Lebanese territory for decades and presently – without any physical challenge whatsoever from Syria, and only small-arms, local resistance from Hezbollah.

Having attacked Lebanon in 2006, Israel experienced only slight damage and limited casualties from the best rockets which Iran-supplied Hezbollah had available. The Gaza massacre of 1/09 encountered no respectable military resistance.

Israel has, for many years, been at formal, functioning peace with Egypt and Jordan. Currently, it enjoys tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia against Hamas and Hezbollah. Fatah maintain this alliance explicitly.

Israel’s military is described as the world’s fourth most powerful. It has a huge atomic arsenal. It confronts two non-state militias lacking heavy equipment of any kind – supplied by a beleaguered Iran which itself has slight military significance outside its borders.

Further, Iran’s alleged nuclear aspirations, even if fully realized, could never constitute a threat to Israel’s existence – unless one sees Iran willing to annihilate as many Shia and Sunni Muslims as Jews, and eager to experience its own annihilation within minutes.  

Rarely have a single year’s suicide bombing deaths approached the number of innocent Israeli men, women, and children slaughtered by other Israelis in traffic accidents. Since 1983, the ratio is about ten to one. The most successful violent killers of Jews in Israel are its notoriously homocidal and suicidal drivers. Yet even they prompt no existential uncertainty.

No hostile army has set foot on present-day Israeli soil since 1948.

Still, Jewish Disease reduces its victims to jabbering robotically about the ongoing Muslim threat to Israel’s existence.
The tactical elevation of explicit, announced intent as the sole criterion for moral culpability.

Israel has, over the years, killed and wounded many times more Palestinians than the number of Israelis killed and wounded by Palestinians.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, just over two thousand Israeli civilians and military have been killed by Arab terrorists from 1920 to 2008. Since 2000, the IDF identifies 431. Within weeks, the IDF killed almost 1400 Gazans and wounded another six thousand including many children. In the 2006 war, another thousand Lebanese civilians died. Over time, and with military deaths included, the disparity grows dramatically.

J.D. ideation dictates that one crucial difference offsets this imbalance: most of the dead Gazans – like the dead Lebanese and other Arabs -- were not intended targets. (For these purposes we leave aside the many Palestinian children shot through the head and upper torso - arguably odd endings for individuals not marked as intended targets.)

Conversely, the far lesser numbers of Israelis slaughtered and maimed weigh more heavily on the scale of moral judgment because their deaths were intended.

This distinction recognizes only first degree murder as a crime. Murder in the second gets a pass. Reckless disregard has no meaning in this context. Neither does predictability of outcome. What makes homicide a culpable act is the specific, overtly avowed intention to kill civilians. Absent that single, announced intent, homicide is readily justifiable -- certainly when performed by the IDF.

This view effectively equates harm to very, very few Jews – with harm to many, many Palestinians.

The intentional deaths and woundings of tens – again, tens -- of Jews by rocket fire (and the psychological burdens imposed on thousands more) is rendered by the prism of Jewish Disease more egregious and less tolerable than the wholly predictable killing, maiming, traumatizing, and stunting of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians – although that behavior itself drives additional killings and woundings of Jews – which in turn sinks the Palestinian or Lebanese force deeper into moral culpability -- from which Israelis are excused because, in the words of the adorable scamp of an elder brother who has mutilated the younger yet again, “It was only an accident, Ma.”

This exclusive recognition of specific, first-degree intent is increasingly used to trump the notion of proportionality – the idea that you cannot invade and destroy Poland because of a border incident, or devastate Gaza within a week because toy rockets without guidance systems have killed and wounded a handful of Israelis over several years.

Proportionality is a fundamental provision of international law. Yet it is denounced as irrelevant by the noted J.D. sufferer Tom Friedman, who duly notes that only Palestinians intentionally target civilians.

I do not know Tom Friedman. But the people I do know would not allow themselves within miles of such depraved thinking – were it applied to any other set of actors in the world.
The abiding presence of anti-Semitism.

Where would J.D. sufferers be without it? In fairness, the tactic of scare-calling is as old as the Judean hills, or the Hittite plains. There have always been magical words and they have always been used to disqualify opposing ideas.

Jewish Disease is notable for its attachment to the associated beliefs that: 1. Serious criticism of Israel or frank anti-Zionism indicates hostility to Jews, or “Jewishness” 2. Hostility to Jews disqualifies the source as fair, objective, or moral, and 3. This applies to Jews as well as anyone else.

The fragrant term “self-hating Jew” has always been a red flag for the condition. This is important because Jewish Zionists and anti-Zionists lead attempts to resist the Israeli agenda – here and in Israel. As American Jews fling back the charge of self-hatred with increased vigor and public notice, the discussion opens up.

Jewish Disease also implies acceptance of anti-Semitism on the part of Israel’s friends. Most notably, whack evangelists leeringly anticipate the annihilation of unconverted Jews as they strut beside Israeli leaders and enjoy the affection of Jews skilled at spotting self-haters at fifty yards.

Billy Graham set the tone years ago, noting on the Nixon tapes that although he condemns Jewish media shennanigans (as did Nixon) Jews love him anyway because all they care about is his support for Israel.

Anti-Semitism is a dangerous sentiment with ongoing potential for great harm. It is also a social fact susceptible of rational inquiry. Jewish Disease tends to deny such analysis.

J.D. thinking extends a broad Western reluctance to analyze anti-Semitism as resulting in any way from culpable Jewish behavior (which line of inquiry has been attempted by Israeli scholars.)

Fair enough. I can understand why we decline to explore the economic impact of carpet-bagging Jewish interests on property relations in Austria after World War I as a factor shaping the direction of anti-Semitism in Vienna in the ‘20s. This may or may not represent a useful area of study – but even if it does, it seems creepy to me.

Not so the impact of Israeli behavior on feelings toward Jews. I don’t think there’s much rational question about this: Zionism and its consequences ignite most of the anti-Semitism with which Europe, Asia, and Africa are currently afflicted. Israeli behavior and global Jewish support for that behavior trip anti-Jewish outrage among Algerians in France, Indonesians in Amsterdam, Shia and Sunni in Baghdad, Greeks and Turks together.

In terms of practical harm alleged, the worst of the old-fashioned anti-Semitic canards fail to cover what has transpired in Palestine 1947-1948, in Lebanon in 1982, 1996, and 2006, in the West Bank and Gaza, 2009 – the disappeared villages, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, self-righteous war on ambulances and schools. What blood liable approaches this scale of dispossession and carnage?

This is certainly how most of the Muslim world and many elsewhere feel about it.
Who can calculate the spread of anger loosed by these activities? Repeatedly and relentlessly, Israeli behavior creates anti-Semitism. Since World War II anti-Semitic feeling can be reasonably viewed as a cost of the Zionist project increasingly more consequential than any antidote offered by it.

However, J.D.’s symptomatic formula casts anti-Semitism as: 1. The cause of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel animus, 2. An apparently irreducible aspect of human nature, and 3. A peril faced by all Israelis and Diaspora Jews -- regardless of individual circumstance.

The unmanageable threat of anti-Semitism serves as a persistent justification for all the moral deformities we have seen. The mystique of primordial, uncaused anti-Semitism is a prominent feature of Jewish Disease.  

Consequences of Jewish Disease

The Israeli interest helps shape American policy. To do so, it draws on the money and genius of powerful American Jews backed by the reliable support of most ordinary Jews, adaptive politicians, and right-wing Christian allies (in the grip of Jewish Disease by Proxy cum Religious Mania.)

The prevalence of J.D. unifies the powerful and the ordinary, the circumcised and the goyim behind the Israeli interest – which usually asserts a right wing perspective, regardless of the Israeli party in power.

To the extent that Jewish Disease continues to dominate these groups, it will continue to enable Israel by compelling Congressional support for Israeli preferences. To the extent that J.D.’s influence retreats, the Israeli interest’s grip on American policy will be weakened, and Israel’s behavior will necessarily modify.

The Future of Jewish Disease

I believe that the main factor working to limit Jewish Disease is generational. Polls suggest that younger Jews are, on average, less afflicted than their elders. Most J-boomers grew up with Israel front and center. Many of their children did not. Now, many Jewish kids think of Israel as just another country. Increasing numbers are learning to stand against it.

Jewish Disease may undergo gradual modification as more left-leaning friends of Israel compete for influence with the entrenched rightist leadership – and as the massacres continue. As J-Street and more radical outfits offer attractive alternatives to the described ideology, some relaxation may occur.

Should these trends attenuate the impact of Jewish Disease, voices and dollars may drift from the traditional leadership and mass indifference may mitigate support for the old agenda. Liberal heroes may crawl out from under rocks to honor their finer instincts.

Then, American policy may desert Israel’s expansionist project. The Jewish State will have to accept a now gasping Geneva/Arab League solution predicated on 1967 borders, and accept the risk of civil war -- or face real pain at the hands of a fed-up world.

If this country experiences a 9/11 encore – and especially if the perpetrators identify American support for Israel as a precipitating cause – pro-Israel feeling may quicken. Jewish Disease fattens on reactive American hysteria so another attack could well give J.D. a secure and expanding place in the frightened American heart.

On the other hand, Americans might decide that continuing to underwrite the Zionist dream is no longer worth the loss of buildings, neighborhoods, or business districts in Chicago or L.A.

Bombing rice paddies is how John McCain hoped to turn Vietnam against Ho. Leveling homes and civic buildings is how Ehud Barak hoped to pry Gaza loose from Hamas. Ditto Hitler and London. It hasn’t worked yet.

But America is, by its own definition, always the great exception.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


On this special day, Papa wishes he were still in the broadcasting business. There are times when nothing compares to running a radio station – especially a black radio station – when it comes to political satire, irony and just plain good-natured silliness.

Back in the day… at WAOK Radio in Atlanta, Georgia, we had things like “Commander Neville DuPree’s Fighter Jet Traffic Reports” – always flying too high and going too fast to ever see any traffic jams down below – and our locally famous series of “Celebrity Interviews” minus, of course, the actual celebrity we were supposed to be interviewing. Yes, we made it all up. Yes, you were supposed to figure that out if you were listening. Yes, sometimes there were a few listeners who… missed it… And no, we never got sued.

What would I be doing today, if I still could? I would have news reporters – live! – all across the southern states, broadcasting from the gravesites of people like Governors Wallace and Faubus of Alabama and Arkansas, Senators Strom Thurmond and Herman Talmadge of South Carolina and Georgia… and any one of a dozen or more places you could name. We’d call it “Earthquake Watch ’09,” and we would be looking for the ground to start shaking and the bodies to begin rolling over. And, yes we would – we would have the radio station’s Science Reporter (we'd have to make that up too) on full alert to report on "Hell Freezing Over" today - at the stroke of noon.

Today, in America, a black man will be sworn-in as President of the United States.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The Times of 1/19/09 includes these two articles about Gaza.

Page 6 carries the headline: “Shocked and Grieving Gazans Find Bodies Under the Rubble of Homes.” It pictures and describes some of the horrors experienced by civilians, with appropriate emphasis on dead and wounded children.

The first page carries a News Analysis above the fold which is headed: “Parsing Gains of Gaza War” with the subhead, “Israel Cannot Be Sure of Lasting Deterrence.”

The last paragraph on the first page reads as follows: “The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: ‘baal habayit hisdtageya’ or ‘the boss has lost it.’ It evokes the madman who cannot be controlled.”

The currency of this phenomenon is reported and acidly condemned by Uri Avnery, the great Israeli leftist, in a Counterpunch article today.

The Israeli’s crazy boss theory mimics Richard Nixon’s madman logic; the crazier they think we are, the less likely they are to resist us.

An Israeli “former national security advisor” is quoted as follows: “The phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion, but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future.”

The corollary seems to me this: “We may therefore do whatever we like to you without fear that you will respond by attacking our civilians. As our military is entirely beyond your reach, you will have no means of retaliating, which will allow us to operate entirely as we choose.”

The article continued directly below the national security advisor’s quote (re Shock and Ruin) substantiates what the phrase “all means” comes down to in practice.

“All means” include economic blockade leading to malnutrition and medically preventable deaths; the widespread slaughter and maiming of civilians; the systematic destruction of private and public property including civic and government buildings, universities, refugee facilities, food depots; the repeated killing of medics and shooting of ambulances, etc.

Routinely, these events have been described as collateral damage unavoidably caused by legitimate pursuit of military targets. The “crazy boss” idea suggests something quite different – a strategic philosophy applicable not only to Gaza but to Lebanon, Jenin, and wherever else the results have been similar.

The “crazy boss” mindset suggests the purposeful creation of horrors so intense as to paralyze the enemy’s ability to resist. It suggests the imposition of sufficient pain on civilians to frustrate any and all attacks and counter-attacks. In other words, it defines “terror” in the most explicit and unequivocal use of that widely misapplied word. It evokes Lidice.

The charge of “state terror” is hardly new, especially in this context. But it is a choice rarity to have all the elements so frankly displayed on the front and inner pages of the New York Times.

The newspaper of record shows us general depravity -- prevalent popular indifference to, and support for, the destruction of civilians in large numbers, and the reduction of civilian life to rubble. This much is now writ large in the public square – unpainted by euphemism, naked as flesh.

Not all of us find this a revelation. In our view, it carries forward quite naturally Israeli history and the history of resistance to Israeli expansions and occupations – from the start.

Nor is this kind of thing unique to the neighborhood. It thrives today in Congo and Sudan, and on a far grander scale than anything Israelis or Palestinians have ever contemplated. It once defined the history of Europe, and the Americas. It recently devastated East Timor, Southeast Asia, South Asia.

The struggle against mass depravity seems always to have been an uphill effort.

What is currently unique about Israel’s situation is the Jewish state’s ability to involve nearly the whole of the West in its generous use of massively applied terror as an instrument of national, and in this case mini-imperial, policy. The Tamil Tigers, Russian Army, Sudanese militias, Rwandan business agents, Zimbabwean police, Khmer Rouge, CIA, Taliban, Al Quaeda, Indonesian military … all have excited widespread Ministerial and Presidential condemnation of their dreadful tactics.

Even the United States has been obliged to denounce and deny the military and informal terrorism it has sponsored here, there, and everywhere.

Where the Holy Land is concerned, the American government – right, left, and center – vigorously asserts Israel’s right to do whatever it wants, when and for whatever reason it wants to do it. Comrades Sanders and Feingold vote “yes” in full knowledge of the mayhem they are blessing and the justifications offered.

The Europeans, who sometimes show at least the fragmental decency required to look embarrassed by their own moral decrepitude, dare not speak aloud in responsible tones.

Alone in the West, Venezuela and Bolivia object unequivocally.

The madman theory is, of course, the psychological underpinning of all terror – whether feebly implemented by slaves under lash or more robustly by colonizers maintaining order.

When strong, armed-to-the teeth nations put the madman theory to work on a massive scale with compulsive regularity, we are at least tempted to consider how the violently insane are, and must be, treated in other circumstances -- confined when possible, or, in rare and tragic circumstances, put down.

Anti-Semitism in The Sun Also Rises

I just finished The Sun Also Rises, again, although it was so long since I first read it that this might have been the first time. Re-reading something good is like meeting up with an old friend and realizing that you didn’t really know them.
One thing I had forgotten was that Anti-Semitism is a character in the story, as important as any other. It was directed at Robert Cohn by all -- Jake, Brett, Bill and Michael. “The Jew,” “the morose Jew,” “the damned Jew,” “doesn’t he know he’s not wanted,” “don’t you know that you’re not wanted,” “don’t you know that Brett doesn’t want you here,” “why don’t you just get the hell out of here and leave us” – over and over again like a drum beat so regular that you forget about the headache it gives.
But Jake, while he succumbs to the rant at times, hates Cohn not for being Jewish but for having been with Brett. I could not help feeling that Hemingway was drawing the picture of Anti-Semitism as an odious character, and Cohn as a sad but heroic person. Certainly, it is not anti-Semitic that Cohn was a boxing champion at Princeton and then have Cohn thrash Jake and Michael (together) when he could no longer bear their insults, and go on to beat Romero, the bull fighter, to a bloody pulp when he finds him and Brett together.
Cohn is treated with contempt by Jake's friends with some justification. Yet I found myself recoiling from the anti-Semitism that supported their contempt and finding it repulsive in these otherwise exceptional and amusing characters. I give Hemingway too much credit to believe that my revulsion at their anti-Semitism was unintended. Hemingway’s own distaste is revealed when Michael, a Scotsman and Brett’s fiancĂ©, tells Jake that the Jews take their interest up-front when they advance to Brett her allowance each month, and then Michael says, “They are not really Jews, they’re actually Scots -- we just call them Jews.”
Perhaps I identify with Cohn because our names are Robert, we are Jews, we boxed at Ivy League colleges, we hung-out with people more interesting than ourselves and we could be humiliated by a beautiful woman who cared nothing for us. Nevertheless, I take comfort in my view that Hemingway preferred Cohn to Anti-Semitism. (We take comfort where we can find it.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Philadelphia Address

January 17, 2009
Obama in Philadelphia
The following are the prepared remarks by President-elect Barack Obama in Philadelphia during his inaugural train tour, as provided by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

We are here to mark the beginning of our journey to Washington. This is fitting because it was here, in this city, that our American journey began. It was here that a group of farmers and lawyers, merchants and soldiers, gathered to declare their independence and lay claim to a destiny that they were being denied.
It was a risky thing, meeting as they did in that summer of 1776. There was no guarantee that their fragile experiment would find success. More than once in those early years did the odds seem insurmountable. More than once did the fishermen, laborers, and craftsmen who called themselves an army face the prospect of defeat.
And yet, they were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line - their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor - for a set of ideals that continue to light the world. That we are equal. That our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for the people can endure. It was these ideals that led us to declare independence, and craft our constitution, producing documents that were imperfect but had within them, like our nation itself, the capacity to be made more perfect.
We are here today not simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take up the work that they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. An economy that is faltering. Two wars, one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely. A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil.
And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives - from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry - an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.
That is the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago. I did so in the belief that the most fundamental American ideal, that a better life is in store for all those willing to work for it, was slipping out of reach. That Washington was serving the interests of the few, not the many. And that our politics had grown too small for the scale of the challenges we faced.
But I also believed something else. I believed that our future is our choice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not - then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.
This is what I believed, but you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, know that I will not be traveling alone. I will be taking with me some of the men and women I met along the way, Americans from every corner of this country, whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause; whose dreams and struggles have become my own.
Theirs are the voices I will carry with me every day in the White House. Theirs are the stories I will be thinking of when we deliver the changes you elected me to make. When Americans are returning to work and sleeping easier at night knowing their jobs are secure, I will be thinking of people like Mark Dowell, who's worried his job at Ford will be the next one cut, a devastating prospect with the teenage daughters he has back home.
When affordable health care is no longer something we hope for, but something we can count on, I will be thinking of working moms like Shandra Jackson, who was diagnosed with an illness, and is now burdened with higher medical bills on top of child care for her eleven year-old son.
When we are welcoming back our loved ones from a war in Iraq that we've brought to an end, I will be thinking of our brave servicemen and women sacrificing around the world, of veterans like Tony Fischer, who served two tours in Iraq, and all those returning home, unable to find a job.
These are the stories that will drive me in the days ahead. They are different stories, told by men and women whose journeys may seem separate. And yet, what you showed me time and again is that no matter who we are or what we look like, no matter where we come from or what faith we practice, we are a people of common hopes and common dreams, who ask only for what was promised us as Americans - that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.
We recognize that such enormous challenges will not be solved quickly. There will be false starts and setbacks, frustrations and disappointments. And we will be called to show patience even as we act with fierce urgency.
But we should never forget that we are the heirs of that first band of patriots, ordinary men and women who refused to give up when it all seemed so improbable; and who somehow believed that they had the power to make the world anew. That is the spirit that we must reclaim today.
For the American Revolution did not end when British guns fell silent. It was never something to be won only on a battlefield or fulfilled only in our founding documents. It was not simply a struggle to break free from empire and declare independence. The American Revolution was - and remains - an ongoing struggle "in the minds and hearts of the people" to live up to our founding creed.
Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union.
Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.
Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country.
Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning.
Join me in this effort. Join one another in this effort. And together, mindful of our proud history, hopeful for the future, let's seek a better world in our time. Thank you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Bring Me Little Water Sylvie


What is the most profitable sport in America? Think about it before answering. It’s not as easy as you might think. You probably won’t figure it out from checking the media. In the newspapers, sports-talk radio, the 24-hour cycle non-stop TV coverage, almost every story about professional baseball, football and basketball – in fact about almost all sports – starts with money. How big and how long are the contracts? How much are the players getting? How much does it cost to buy season tickets? What about the fifty bucks you have to shell out for a hotdog, fries and a beer? But, for America’s richest sport, the media gives them a free pass when it comes to $$$$. Go figure.

Thanks to FORBES annual assessment, we know the so-called value of every professional sports franchise. The most valuable sports business in America is the Dallas Cowboys with a listed worth of $1.612 billion. Based on this prospective sales price, the National Football League is far and away the richest of all sports, but not the most profitable. Of the 32 NFL teams, FORBES has 17 of them worth more than a billion dollars. Of course, how they figure these numbers is a mystery. The Cowboys show a profit of $30.6 million which mean FORBES says they are worth about 53 times one-year earnings. Pretty fancy multiples. Make sense to you? Not if you look at the Seattle Seahawks franchise. That team shows a profit of only $8.9 million, yet it has a value of $1.010 billion - that’s nearly a multiple of 115 times one-year profit. Why is Seattle’s profit margin worth more than twice that for the Cowboys? Your guess is as good as mine.

Overall, the NFL is pro sports most consistently profitable enterprise. Only one NFL team (surprise! The Detroit Lions) operates at a loss, and despite losing $3.1 million last year, FORBES says that team would still sell for $917 million. Almost a billion dollars for a losing enterprise? Only in America. God bless capitalism.

In the National Basketball Association, after the profits of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, the pickings get pretty slim and fully a third of all NBA teams lose money. The picture is Dickensian for the National Hockey League. For them it’s the best of times and the worst, all at the same time. The single most profitable sports team in North America is the Toronto Maple Leafs. That team made $66.4 million last year. But, almost half the teams in the NHL can’t break even and the league, as an entity, is constantly in jeopardy of either contracting drastically or closing up altogether. I suppose the Toronto Maple Leafs could suit up and skate against the Little Sisters Of The Poor, or a pick-up team from the local 7-11, and the good folks of Toronto would pay big Canadian bucks to watch.

Major League Baseball is the most difficult sport in which to assess value. They keep their numbers to themselves and they have always spent like there is no tomorrow. The Supreme Court, in 1922, ruled that Baseball is not a business – it’s a sport, and thereby granted them an exemption from anti-trust laws no other sports league enjoys. One may well argue that Baseball’s owners have taken that ruling to heart in the way they operate their teams. Both costs and revenues vary wildly for MLB. FORBES places a value on the New York Yankees of $1.306 billion, although the team probably loses money – on paper anyway. Revenue for the Yankees is listed at $327 million, or about three times that for the Florida Marlins, who are among the most profitable MLB teams. Go figure.

Outside the US, only soccer has any financial success, and it has quite a lot. Following the Dallas Cowboys $1.612 billion, on the FORBES list, is the British soccer team, Manchester United at $1.4 billion – yes, a soccer team in a city you’ll never set foot in (and can’t find on a map) is worth more than the New York Yankees.

FORBES cannot judge some sports because there are no teams, no franchises, only individuals. In this category there are three standouts including the richest athlete in the world. Tiger Woods, all by himself, is the sporting world’s only $100 million a-year producer. Second and third on that list might surprise you – you might not recognize at least one of them. Number 2 is the boxer, Oscar De La Hoya. You may have heard of him, but did you think he made $43 million last year? And number 3 is an automobile racer named Kimi Raikkonen (Who?), who made $42.2 million last year…. doing what, where?

So, have you decided yet – what is the most profitable sport in the country? The answer is – American college football. That’s right. Division 1A – which is big-time college football – a supposedly non-professional enterprise - produces more profit than any other sports activity in America. According to FORBES, here are last year’s profits – that is the net revenue after all expenses – for the Top Ten college football teams.

1. University of Texas $46.2 million
2. Notre Dame 45.8
3. Georgia 43.5
4. Florida 38.2
5. Michigan 36.2
6. Auburn 33.9
7. Alabama 31.8
8. LSU 31.7
9. Penn State 29.4
10. South Carolina 28.9

Is it any wonder that six of them are in the South where college football challenges Christianity as the dominant belief system?

There are 119 colleges and universities playing Division I football and they all make money. Outside of their conference games, colleges schedule all their games separately. There is no organization – its every school for themselves. To get another team to come to your stadium and play a football game, you have to pay them, and probably return the favor next year or the year after at their place. Gee, that’s a shocker, isn’t it? How much do you have to pay? Depends upon which team you want. Try to get Notre Dame on your schedule and be prepared to pay millions – yes, millions. Even schools you don’t think of as football powers, or perhaps schools you’ve never heard of and have no idea where they are, charge a fancy fee to show up and play football for a couple of hours. The Air Force Academy, a government facility training future pilots, got $850,000 to go to Knoxville to play the University of Tennessee. The University of Louisiana-Monroe (Huh? Who? Where?) received $700,000 to play football against Kansas. C’mon, Kansas? And, Florida-Atlantic University (does anyone know who they are or where this school is? I thought they were on the Internet.), they got paid $900,000 to show-up in Austin, Texas to take the field against the team from the University of Texas. Almost a million bucks, for who?

In college football you don’t even have to be good to make big money. In 2007, the University of Syracuse, a small city in upstate New York, won only 2 football games. Nevertheless, they made $29.6 million that season. The same year, the University of Minnesota managed only 1 victory all season while making a profit of $17.3 million. The list of schools with teams that won 1, 2, or only 3 games yet showed profits in the millions is very long.

But, doesn’t all this money serve a noble purpose? Doesn’t it go to academics? Isn’t football the key to funding chemistry labs, paying the salaries of poetry professors, paying the costs of the Music Department and contributing to all academic disciplines within the university community? No. It doesn’t work that way at all – with a single notable exception.

Little known to most observers, big-time college football teams are NOT the property of the schools whose names they bear. Instead they are owned by corporate entities, private companies that appear to be school-related, but are not, such as The University of Georgia Athletic Association, Inc. – not part of the public university known as the University of Georgia, but rather a separate corporate entity altogether. Most Georgians have no idea.

Remember the $46.2 million “profit” made by the football team at the University of Texas? Only $4.7 million of it went to the university. The rest - $41.5 million! – was retained by the corporate entity controlling the team. Pennies for test tubes, books, schoolrooms and dorms – millions for coaches and millions more for recruiting new players – plane tickets, hotels, and God only knows what else.

The sole exception – the University of Notre Dame – unique - a football team owned and operated by the university itself, its program produced $22.1 million for academic use – more than the next half-dozen top programs combined.

The reason college football is so financially rewarding is simple – labor costs, or the lack of them. As a comparison, the National Football League, which employs the highest paid unionized workers in the world, pays out about $4.5 billion (that’s billion with a B, each year to its players. That equals about 60% of total league revenue.) College football pays… nothing, not a cent. And, they’re proud of it. What do they provide? A free “education.” Sure, they do. Do you know their graduation rates?Have you seen the majors for many big-time college football players? Did you know, for example, that the National Champion Florida Gators have players who major in something called “Recreation Event Management?” What the hell is that? College football is more professional than college, more business than sport, and more private than public.

And finally, here is FORBES’ list of the 10 most profitable sports teams:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs NHL $ 66.4 million
2. Washington Redskins NFL 58.1
3. Chicago Bulls NBA 55.4
4. Los Angeles Lakers NBA 47.9
5. Univ. of Texas (college) 46.2
6. Notre Dame (college) 45.8
7. Houston Texans NFL 43.9
8. Washington Nationals MLB 43.8
9. Univ. of Georgia (college) 43.5
10. New York Giants NFL 41.2

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye

I just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye, again. I probably read it about a thousand years ago and I didn't get it. This time I was crying at the end. Maybe because I got kicked out of school too. Anyway, it's about the best book ever written. I think that if I ever wrote a book like that, I'd never write anything again. How the hell could you?

Monday, January 5, 2009


The first hour of this drama details the vocational and familial humiliations of a strikingly short, round-faced Dustin Hoffman, who writes jingles for a living.

One’s discomfort is not eased by a building distaste for his fidgety, garrulous character. Dustin’s evisceration intercuts the dating misadventures of Emma Thompson, for whom one feels no distaste at all. On the contrary, one wonders what’s wrong with the male population of England – as if one doesn’t know.

They meet halfway through the picture. Shortly thereafter, Emma persuades Dustin to return to his daughter’s London wedding, from which he has been all but explicitly excluded. There, they are seated at the children’s table.

Dustin makes a very nice toast and thanks to Emma’s cheery influence, is warmly accepted at last. Dustin and Emma agree to meet the following day. He does not show up because of a minor arrhythmia which lands him in the hospital absent the pills he left home in Cleveland or somewhere. They soon get it all straightened out. The end.

This movie raises an interesting question: What does one do when one’s significant other -- the very inventive and discriminating person to whom one so frequently turns for fresh ideas and telling phrases, upon whom one relies for inspiration and guidance in the production of cinematic observations and other literary works -- reveals self as well satisfied with the described sequence, viewing it as romantic in a good way?

Does one find a different room – perhaps inadvertently implying distain for the other’s predilections? Does one uncork a snappy rat-tat-tat of smart cracks or merely punctuate a strained silence with non-committal sighs?

None of the above. One remains in place, resists the urge to self-expression, and thinks of other things. For what is accomplished by slinking away, mitigating another’s joy, or affecting superior wisdom?

Nothing is.

By rising to the requirements of one’s better self, one will often wrest ultimate advantage from banal, tawdry, even borderline-degrading experiences. And, looking back, one will never have anything to be ashamed of.


In a few weeks billions of dollars will be bet – some legally, some not – on a single sports event, the Super Bowl. This football game is the crown jewel of the sports betting industry. It generates more action – the largest amount wagered – than anything people bet on all year. The enormous amount of money bet on this one football game is testimony to the long history of gambling by human beings. Among the basic drives in life… food, clothing, shelter, sex and television… gambling is as strong as any.

The oldest gambling paraphernalia, a pair of dice-like gizmos, date back some 40,000 years. “So easy, even a caveman can do it.” Every civilization ever studied shows signs of gambling, games of chance, lotteries and other forms of social wagering. The ancient Chinese, the Egyptians, the Greeks… they all gambled. The Roman soldiers who put Jesus up on the cross were said to have gambled over his clothing.

In more recent times, in the year 1020, the Kings of Sweden and Norway (both named Olaf) actually rolled dice to settle a dispute over a land area known as Hising. Both Kings are said to have rolled double-sixes on their first try and then, when one King tossed another double sixes, the other was instantly declared the winning Olaf when his dice came up a six and a one. Thus, the derivation of the winning roll - seven. Here we are, nearly a thousand years later and I’m sure, somewhere, right now, somebody is rolling a seven and reaching out to collect his winnings!

People will bet on practically anything. Make a statement; chances are somebody will challenge you to back it up with a bet. In England, during the middle ages, gambling was already a national obsession. Historical records show that in the 14th century, when Henry VIII put Anne Boleyn on trial for her head, the public made the lovely, albeit ill-fated Anne a 10-1 choice for acquittal. Imagine the shock. I’m sure that wasn’t the first time the public guessed wrong and was cleaned out by the bookmakers, beaten into the ground by the odds makers, and it certainly wasn’t the last time. The whole history of betting is the story of short-term wins followed by long-term loses. Who do you think pays for all those billion-dollar hotels in Las Vegas?

While an early form of playing cards first appeared in 11th century Turkistan, they were developed into today’s style 200 years later in France. Blackjack became a French favorite in the late 1700s and the game of roulette was also created in France around the time of the French Revolution. Each has done quite well, thank you – for the house, not for the player.

In America, lotteries were used to finance a major portion of our own Revolution and gambling, especially card playing, thrived throughout the expansion of the American territories during the 19th century.

Sports’ betting begins, of course, with horse racing. As long as men have tamed and ridden horses, there have been horse races and as long as there have been horse races, there has been betting on their outcome. In the early years of the 20th century, there were more than 300 horse tracks operating in the United States.

Betting on professional baseball began in the 1880s. It continues to this day despite various and frequent scandals involving fixed games and insiders who have been caught betting on games over which they exerted influence. The urge of the player cannot be repressed, even by the knowledge that the result might be manipulated. In the 1920s college football became a profitable betting enterprise and during the Depression college basketball also became a national betting favorite.

In 1931 the state of Nevada made gambling legal. Las Vegas is the result, or perhaps more accurately, the cause. But, sports betting did not take hold in Las Vegas for another 45 years. Then, in 1976, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the inspiration for the Robert DiNiro character in the movie “Casino,” almost single-handedly invented casino-based sports gambling. Rosenthal opened the first modern sportsbook at the Stardust Hotel. Papa was there, back then. Free drinks, too! It’s been nothing but continuous, unlimited growth since.

The “house” soon developed 2 strategies to insure for themselves a stable profit base. First, they introduced the point spread. It was no longer enough just to pick the winner of a game, the bettor had to correctly gage the minimum number of points by which the winning team would prevail. This alone eliminated the possibility that the house might take a catastrophic loss on a single game. It worked and it’s still working.

Second, the house added what is called the 11/10 "vig," which means a losing bet pays an eleventh dollar for every $10 wagered. This extra, or “vig” goes straight to the house. This system requires that a sports bettor must win 52.38% of his bets in order to break even. Thus, if a bettor makes 100 bets, each of an equal amount, he has to win 53 of them or he is a loser. When you have millions of bettors making hundreds of millions of bets, this slight advantage for the house is enough to guarantee enormous profits. Actually, the house doesn’t much care who wins what. The “vig” is plenty, and besides, most betters bet wrong.

Now, with the advent of the Internet, we have added online betting to the mix. Gamblers can place their wagers online – and offshore – with instant payoffs either deducted from or added to their credit card or cash account. No one really knows how much money is bet on sporting events in the United States every year, but most estimates, including casino wagers and online bets, exceed $100 billion. There is still an underground, illegal sports betting market, especially for the high rollers. Most casinos in Las Vegas have a maximum of $100,000 per bet on a sports event. Caesar’s Palace will take up to $300,000, but that’s the highest. So, where does the really big-time bettor go for really big-money action? Where there’s a market, there’s a vendor, somewhere offering the opportunity.

How many Americans bet on organized sports? Too many to count. Do you include the office pools on something like college basketball’s “March Madness?” Why do so many Americans bet on sports? That one’s easy. Everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks they “know” who will win this event or that event, this game or that game. Sports is one of those areas in life where so many think they have special knowledge. In reality, what they have is an opinion, a favorite, a preference, a rooting interest and a hope. But “special knowledge?” No, they don’t have any, because there isn’t any such thing. Of course, nobody wants to believe that. That’s why Lefty Rosenthal and all who have followed in his footsteps have made out like bandits.

Still, the opinions never die. The certainty with which so many people say – this game is a lock! – thrives and grows, despite losses and more losses. People have their dreams and their illusions. The bookmaker will never want for customers.

And… by the way, a my personal favor to you, Papa says take Oklahoma plus the points against the Florida Gators in the BCS Championship game. It’s a sure thing. Bet the mortgage – cash in your kids college fund – redeem your 401k – The Sooners will lead you to Easy Street! You wanna bet?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Long before he became Vice President or President (the only man to hold both offices without ever being elected to either one of them!), Gerald Ford was asked for his definition of “an impeachable offense” for a President. The question was a good one, and since Ford was a Congressional leader he was an appropriate person to ask. The Constitution specifies only that a President may be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Except for Treason and Bribery, the Constitution is silent on “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Ford said, “An impeachable offense is anything a majority of the House says it is.” He was not joking. Technically, the Senate must act upon any bill of impeachment voted by the House. The Senate has no authority to reject an impeachment without a trial or ignore it altogether. The House will send a team of lawyers to press their impeachment, and the Senate must entertain them. Ford’s plainspoken, unambiguous answer is relevant today, not for impeachment, but with respect to the actual exercise of Congressional power. There is the real possibility of the Senate refusing to seat Roland Burris, the new, interim Senator from Illinois. Can the Senate refuse to seat a legally appointed member? The power of the Congress to accept or reject its own membership is as simply stated in the Constitution, as is the power of impeachment. Both powers are granted… but neither has proper grounds specifically delineated, defined or distinguished from possibly improper, even illegal reasons for exercising either authority.

So, was Ford right? Could the House impeach a President… for any reason, simply by calling whatever their reason of choice might be “a high Crime or Misdemeanor?” Can the Senate refuse to accept the certificate of appointment from the State of Illinois? The answer is: Sure. Why not? Who’s going to stop them? One might say, “Hey, they can’t do that!” But – again – who will stop them?

In 1966 the House refused to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell of New York. The reasons, and the merit of them, or lack of same, are not important here. It’s enough that Powell was indeed denied his seat in Congress. He sued. The House sits for only 2 years, and then an entire new House is elected, so Powell asked the federal courts for an expedited hearing. They refused. His lawsuit, therefore, followed normal procedure, at normal speed. It was still in the courts, unresolved, when Powell won a new election in 1968. The new Congress, in January 1969, voted to accept him. Nevertheless, his lawsuit against the previous Congress continued.

The Supreme Court eventually heard the case and voted in Powell’s favor (7-1 with one Justice not voting) – but it took 3 ½ years to get the decision. Since the Congress from which Powell had been excluded had ended already, he received no actual relief from his court victory.

This time around, should the Senate balk at seating Burris, there is nothing to make the Senate leadership justify their refusal. All they need to do is… do it. Once done, Burris will not become a Senator. He won’t get credentials, an office, a desk, a salary… nothing. He may well sue – as Adam Powell did. And he may well win – as Adam Powell did. And it may well take Roland Burris 3 to 4 years to get his vindication – as it took Rep, Powell. And, what will Burris get from such a victory – if and when it comes? He’ll get the same relief Powell got… nothing. So, what’s the point?

Illinois will hold another election in 2010 to fill the same Senate seat. While a legal case initiated by Burris may not be ruled moot (the Supreme Court refused to dismiss the Powell case as moot) in the real political world the issue will be meaningless because a newly, duly elected Illinois Senator will take his or her seat in January 2011.

What’s all the fuss about then? Nothing, really.

Marley & Me

Wanting escape, we tried Marely & Me with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. They are beautiful and charming. The dog Marley, played by several dog actors portraying different stages in his life, was a total pain in the ass at every stage and very not charming. The movie is not for kids and not about a family coping with a dog. It is about coping with the challenges of employment in a marriage with two working adults while raising three kids and trying to live fulfilling lives. There is no dramatic conflict except between hope and reality. Interesting and engaging, but whoever decided to market it as a movie about a dog to take the kids to see, should have worked for the Bush administration selling a war.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Years ago, I bought a gun, a handgun, a revolver, a Smith & Wesson that fires .38 magnum ammunition, the ones called hollow-point bullets that are designed to explode upon impact, spin randomly and disperse their charge wildly inside the body of the person you have shot. It’s a particularly damaging kind of ammunition, deadly in more cases than not. I selected a .38 revolver over a .9 mm because it is easier to shoot accurately and simple to load. The ease with which people appear to be shot with a .9 mm pistol – in the movies – is a trick of the cinema, a device of entertainment. If you went to shooting range with a .9 mm and fired it (as I have), aiming with one hand, shooting round after round without stopping, and your target was only fifteen feet away, you would be lucky to hit that target at all, even once. A revolver is much easier to fire effectively. A revolver is also always ready to fire while a .9 mm has to have a bullet in the chamber or else you’ll pull the trigger and nothing will happen.

When you own a gun for self-defense for self-protection and to ensure the safety of your loved ones, you need to be able to use it immediately, as you grab it. Preparation is something you may have no time for. You must, however, be prepared. You must learn how to operate a gun and you must become proficient as a shooter. I do not hunt, and never have. I have no interest in target shooting, although I admit the experience at a shooting range can be quite exciting and invigorating. There is a bit of a high to be had from firing a gun. Some people even like the smell of gunpowder. I do.

Before I purchased my weapon, a friend of mine who owned multiple guns and was an expert marksman gave me a harsh lecture. A man with a biting sense of humor, all pretense of comedy was gone when he spoke about this. “Owning a gun is not fucking around,” he said. He turned popular, conventional wisdom on its head. “People don’t kill people,” he told me. “Guns do.” He went on to say that nothing you might yell at anyone, especially in a moment of intense anger, could kill them. What I remember most is when he gave this example: “I’ll kill you, you mutherfucker!” he shouted, and then added quickly, “That never hurt anybody.” But, he pointed out, a calm and silent person with a loaded gun could pull the trigger and whomever the gun was pointed at might end up dead. No anger, no yelling, but a well-placed bullet to the face or chest… and the result is death. “It ain’t like the movies,” he said. “It’s not clean and, for the most part, when you get shot, on purpose, by someone who knows what they’re doing, you don’t recover.”

“Don’t buy a gun,” my friend told me, “until you have come to terms with the idea that you will kill someone.” Then he told me, “That’s why you’re buying one, isn’t it – to kill someone?” Guns are not meant as a deterrent to violence. Waving a weapon will not stop an aggressor. And the idea of shooting somebody in the hand or foot or leg just to wound them and thereby end the encounter is the kind of nonsense seen only in movies or on TV. In real life, when you point a loaded weapon at a person, you must mean to kill them. “If you can’t do that,” my friend said, “don’t buy a gun.”

I live in the suburbs of major city, a city that has a long history of violent home invasions. Once, those home invasions were unheard of outside the city. That’s no longer true. The suburbs are not immune from this sort of crime. I wouldn’t call it a public safety problem, not where I live, but what was unthinkable thirty years ago, now actually happens even if it is still unusual. Buy a gun – me? I was thinking about protecting my family, my property and myself. I make no excuses for that. If somebody is forcibly entering your home, at four in the morning or four in the afternoon, there’s no time to call the local police and wait for them to respond. If the criminals are armed, you or members of your family may be killed. Even if they are not armed, you or your family may be badly hurt.

Having a loaded gun available if I needed it, made me feel safer, more comfortable, more secure. It still does.

In our legal system we have a fundamental principle regarding the use of deadly force. It’s quite simple. You may use deadly force only when faced with it. Yes, that’s right. In most states, even if somebody breaks into your home in the middle of the night and you confront them – and they are unarmed – you cannot use deadly force without facing legal charges yourself. I know, most people who are awakened and discover a stranger in their bedroom would like to grab a handy gun shoot the sonofabitch and think they would be justified, both morally and legally. But that just isn’t the case. If your life isn’t in danger, you can’t kill someone no matter what law the intruder might have broken first.

Where I live, most people would gladly put their faith in a jury of their peers. I would. Once my friend gave me the parameters for gun ownership, I was ready. Think about it, if you woke up one night and an intruder, a home invader was in your home – in your bedroom - wouldn’t you shot them if you had a handgun immediately available? If you’ve answered “No,” I think you’re not being honest.

For the individual, survival is not only morally justified, it is a prime directive of human behavior, even if it involves killing somebody who you reasonably believe is a threat to your life. Armed or not, a home invader, especially one who is confronted by the homeowner, can and may well kill you. If you, as the victim have a gun, are you really going to take the time to consider the weaponry of your invader before shooing him? I won’t, and I doubt you would either, no matter what you say now, in the light of day, when you face no threat. This sort of reflection is an intellectual luxury reserved only to the safe and secure.

I know the law in my state requires that I use deadly force only when threatened by deadly force. I, however, trust the reasonable thinking of the average person to arrive at the conclusion that anyone who is inside my house, having entered forcibly and uninvited, is indeed a threat to my life and to the lives of my family. I will shoot, and as you would be taught, if you took shooting lessons, I will aim for the center of the torso, the largest part of the body. Miss high, you’ll hit the chest or the head. Miss low and your bullet probably strikes the groin area or the legs. A hit, directly where you aim, in the abdomen, will result in the most painful of all wounds. The chances of disabling the invader are excellent, and as my friend warned me in the beginning, the more you know how to use your gun, the better the odds are you will kill whomever you are shooting. That’s what the gun is for, isn’t it?

Some people I know have guns that they keep locked up. They even sell things called gun-safes. Others have special trigger locks. Before you can use such a weapon, you need a key and the time to unlock the trigger. I know some people who make a point of keeping their ammunition in a different place than where they keep their gun, and some never keep their gun loaded. It’s impolite to ask them, but I always wonder – why have a gun at all?

I keep my revolver in a place where I’m certain small children cannot get to it. Yet, it is immediately accessible to me, especially in the middle of the night. And it is always loaded. Extra bullets are right there, next to it. It has no trigger lock and I purposely bought a gun that has no safety mechanism. I believe my gun is essential to my individual self-defense. I believe a gun is meant to kill people, not to be turned off, and mine is ready to do so if needed.


If you enjoy watching unpleasant people saying and doing predictable things, this may be the flick for you. We lasted fifteen minutes.