Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nine Weeks In

Now we are nine weeks into the college football season and we know a little more about who is and is not a legitimate title contender than we did when I wrote about the topic after Week Six. But only a little.

The list of teams vying for conference championships and spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff remains incredibly long for this late in the year. There are at least a half-dozen players in the thick of the Heisman race, all of whom are deserving and none of whom is a clear favorite. But from an excitement standpoint, that only makes things better! Who cares if It gives headaches to the self-important folks who vote in the polls or on the playoff selection committee or for the Downtown Athletic Club?

The two teams who played in last season's national championship game, which was not decided until the final play, are tied for the longest home winning streak in America. Wouldn't a rematch be delicious?

Why is nobody talking about Alabama when they are 7-1, one play away from being unbeaten, and getting better every week?

Florida State finished last season as the #1 team in America. They haven't lost this season and have continuously found ways to win, so I would still rank them #1. But their offensive line continues to look vulnerable at times, and everything I believe about football tells me that the offensive line is the one position where you can't have a weakness and win the whole shebang.

The state of Mississippi -- not the state of Alabama or state of Florida -- is currently the epicenter of the college football universe, even after Ole Miss's gut-wrenching loss to LSU... Yet it is still very conceivable that Auburn and Alabama will move past Ole Miss and Mississippi State over the next four weeks and knock the Magnolia State from its well-deserved place on the pedestal.

Speaking of Ole Miss's gut-wrenching loss, say what you want about Bo Wallace's go for broke pass on the final play, but you can't say he went down without a fight. If single coverage is what he saw (like he claims) then it came down to if his audible works he's a genius and hero, but if it doesn't work he's a lunkhead and goat. We all know there were two defenders there when the ball arrived, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Duke is once again putting together a fine, winning season and showing that football can compete with basketball on Tobacco Road. With them sitting at 6-1 and in control of the ACC Coastal Division while Stanford is 5-3 and two games back in the Pac-12 North, it appears that the award for "strongest football team at a smarty pants institution" has taken up residence on the East Coast this year.

Regarding the Big-12, I say this: 1) West Virginia, whose only losses were in closely contested battles versus Alabama and Oklahoma, is only about a dozen plays away from being in the national championship conversation; 2) watch out for K-State; 3) Kliff Kingsbury is a pansy ass pretty boy; and 4) although TCU's recent run is impressive, something about those basketball-like point totals makes me skeptical about whether they are playoff worthy.

As an Auburn grad I say this about my team: 1) they are a legitimate top ten outfit; 2) Nick Marshall is one of the better quarterbacks in the country, no matter what anyone says to the contrary; and 3) their D has done a good job not breaking at clutch time even when they have bent alot in the build-up ... However, 4) that D needs to stiffen up significantly, because no D can keep bending for three quarters in each game without eventually breaking at some point in the season; and 5) three of Auburn's five remaining games are on the road against top ten opponents, which means a) the odds are very much against them winning out, but b) if they do win out, their spot in the playoff is all but secure even if an unbeaten Mississippi State keeps them from appearing in the SEC championship game.

Finally, I have to give props to the Georgia Southern Eagles. This is their first year in Division I-A after a 30-year run at the I-AA level that included six national titles between 1985 and 2000. You might recall that they beat Florida in the Swamp last November. Anyway, they are currently 6-2 with their only losses being by one point at NC State and four points at Georgia Tech -- which means they are good enough to compete in a power five conference.

Anyway, since Week Ten begins in two nights when FSU and Louisville do battle, I better get around to hitting the "publish" button on this post. So, based on what has happened up to now, below is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1.    Florida State
2.    Mississippi State
3.    Alabama
4.    Oregon
5.    Michigan State
6.    Auburn
7.    Notre Dame
8.    Kansas State
9.    Ole Miss
10.  Georgia
11.  TCU
12.  West Virginia
13.  Oklahoma
14.  Ohio State
15.  East Carolina
16.  Arizona
17.  Baylor
18.  Utah
19.  LSU
20.  Arizona State

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Loquacious Latina, Part 1(b)

My October 16th post took Eva Longoria to task for some absurd things she said in Los Angeles Magazine. Chief among them was her accusation that the United States "promotes monolingualism."

My post also indicated that its follow-up would have a different tone. But before that new tone kicks in, I want to address the "America is monolingual" belief that underlies Longoria's "America promotes monolingualism" claim. Unsurprisingly, it is a belief that permeates the Left -- largely because liberals base so much of their self-esteem on thinking of themselves as worldly sophisticates while thinking of average Americans as backwater boobs.

As liberals view things, people from countries other than the United States devote time to learning different languages because they are more intellectually curious and more open to other cultures than all those simple-minded rednecks from Alabama and Kentucky and all those gun-toting yahoos from Idaho and Wyoming. Reality, of course, is more complicated than that.

Some European countries have higher rates of multilingualism than the U.S., but that is out of necessity, not because of intellectual rigor. European nations are comparatively small and jumbled together, so if their citizens want to move about and do commerce with anybody other than their nearest-by potential customers, they have no choice but to learn languages other than their own. That is why so many Bulgarians speak Romanian and so many Romanians speak Bulgarian. It is also why Switzerland, a small nation stuffed between Germany, France and Italy, counts German, French and Italian all as official languages.

Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, and most Spaniards are able to speak passable Portugese while most Portuguese citizens can speak passable Spanish. But neither of them likes speaking the other's tongue. More than once in my professional life I have seen Spanish-speaking co-workers, who immigrated here from places in Central and South America, roll their eyes when asked to talk to a Portuguese-speaking customer. And usually that Portuguese-speaking customer was from the South American nation of Brazil.

Here in the United States, the sheer size of our nation (combined with the fact we share the world's longest border with similarly cultured Canada) means there is no compulsion to become familiar with other languages like there is in Europe and Asia. People from Sweden and Norway are likely to come into frequent contact and need to be able to converse. Ditto for people from Vietnam and Laos and people from Germany and Poland.

But when Missourians encounter Iowans and Marylanders encounter Pennsylvanians, there is no reason to learn another language. Therefore, many Americans spend all that time and energy on things they consider more fulfilling and productive, like talking to their kids or building their business or working for a promotion. And I'm willing to bet that people in Belgium and Bangladesh would be thrilled to switch places with them.

Yet, despite all that, a significant percentage of the U.S. population still speaks more than one language, and the divide between who speaks one and who speaks more than one does not fall along party or ideological lines. George W. Bush is bilingual while Barack Obama speaks only English. Bill Clinton speaks communicably in German while Ronald Reagan, as far as I can tell, never even pretended to try  anything besides English.

The rate of bilingualism in states along our southern border (and along the part of our northern border that is adjacent to French-speaking Quebec) is close to the rate of bilingualism in Europe, a fact that is consistent with the "people are bilingual because they have to be" theory. And it has to bug liberals that two of our four heavily bilingual southern border states are unambiguously conservative, while one of the other two (New Mexico) is culturally conservative even though its election outcomes sway between Democrat and Republican.

It is also worth noting that although the final southern border state (California) is famously liberal, its areas with the highest rates of bilingualism are among its most conservative, and often send Republicans to Congress.

In short, the United States of America is not a monolingual country like Eva Longoria and her limousine liberal friends assume it to be. Nor, for that matter, is it the shuttered and self-focused country they also assume it to be.

In huge numbers, we adopt little girls from China who have been abandoned by their own parents because they were born with vaginas rather than penises.

We are first in line to help victims when a natural disaster strikes anywhere on the globe, even when it strikes a nation whose government is our sworn enemy.

We donate far more money -- and far more hours of labor -- to charitable efforts in the Third World than does any other nation on Earth.

Through our continuous presence near South Korea's border, we have spent more than 60 years helping it remain free and prosperous in the face of two much more militant neighbors (China and North Korea) who have spent every one of those years wanting to destroy it.

We prefer to eat with chopsticks when we go to Japanese restaurants and prefer to have Mexican servers when we go to Mexican restaurants; and while those preferences might seem superficial and silly compared to the other things I just mentioned, they are well-intentioned and we come to them with all sincerity.

Yes, we could do better. For example, we could stop malaria in Africa dead in its tracks, just like we did here, by lifting our ban on DDT and allowing African nations to spray with it like we did decades ago.

But we do far better than any other nation, and when the will to eliminate African malaria is finally found, it is far more likely to be found in Memphis than in Madrid.

Criticize this nation if you want, Ms. Longoria, for that is your God-given and constitutionally guaranteed right. But are you willing to live in a country other than this, and would you be eager to live in a world in which the United States did not exist?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Loquacious Latina, Part One

Even if you (by which I mean "I") follow current events closely, there are bound to be some stories that escape your notice. Apparently quite a few barbs were thrown at Eva Longoria last week regarding something she said last month, but I heard nothing about it until some days after the barbs were thrown.

First, allow me to say I find it annoying that American society considers it a "current event" when Eva Longoria shares her views in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine. Nonetheless, she is outspoken and draws attention and the media publicizes her comments more than they publicize the statements of scientists, economists, philosophers, and congressmen -- and therefore, when she weighs in with her thoughts on American society, it's a current event whether we like it or not.

What drew the barbs was her claim that "America is the only country that promotes monolingualism" -- a claim that is breathtakingly bogus, as I will discuss in a bit.

What I found more noteworthy, however, was Longoria saying she never learned Spanish until three years ago. That came as quite a shock to me, and presumably to everyone else who has heard her pronounce certain words with a mellifluously Spanish flourish.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, because she usually talks no differently than me and the vast majority of milquetoast U.S. citizens whose families have been here for generations. In fact, it is the "normalcy" of most of her spoken words that makes her occasional Hispanic inflections so obvious.

*     *     *     *     *

There is, of course, nothing wrong with having a dialect. If it is real.

There is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage. If the heritage you're proud of is not based on myth.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being Hispanic. Tampa, the largest city in the metropolitan area where I was raised, was built by Cuban immigrants who were both entrepreneurs and laborers. Ted Cruz is my favorite currently serving U.S. senator. Who doesn't love listening to Tito Puente bang out rhythms on his timbale drums? My first major middle school crush was on a girl whose last name was Menendez.

But there is something to be said for bona fides, and the Desperate Housewives star seems to be obsessed with boosting her level of whatever it is she believes count as Hispanic bona fides. Most people probably assume that she is a first or second generation U.S. citizen from somewhere like Mexico or Nicaragua, but in reality, her family has been ranching the same land in Texas  for -- get ready for this -- more than 400 years.

When Ms. Longoria speaks with any Central or South American dialect, she is, dare I say, engaging in a craft at which she is a professional. That craft is called "acting."

For her to occasionally speak with such a dialect is no more authentic than if I were to occasionally speak with a brogue because some of my forebears came from Scotland. It is no more authentic than if Colin Powell, who was born in Harlem, occasionally adopted a Bob Marley manner of speech because his parents were from Jamaica.

*     *     *     *     *

When it comes to Ms. Longoria's assertion that "America is the only country that promotes monolingualism," it is almost impossible to overstate how wrong she is. Her statement is so demonstrably false that it's tempting to dismiss her as either an imbecile or a complete ignoramus, but she is definitely not the former and I doubt she's the latter, so her statement can only be explained as the result of smug, unthinking intellectual laziness -- and again, we shouldn't be surprised because smug, unthinking intellectual laziness is an epidemic on the Left.

Liberals love to deploy universal statements like "every other country," "no other country," "every serious scientist," and so on, even though universal statements are categorically incorrect 99.99 percent of the time.

I am four years older than Ms. Longoria and it was 29 years ago that I first walked through the doors of St. Petersburg High School. Even back then -- in the dark ages of the Reagan Era, when our war-mongering 40th president displayed his ethnocentrism by granting amnesty and citizenship to millions of Latin Americans who were in the U.S. illegally -- my home state of Florida would not allow you to graduate from high school unless you successfully completed two years of classes in the same foreign language.

The same was true in Ms. Longoria's home state when she graduated from Roy Miller High School, so she must have had an inkling that monolingualism was not being promoted. (On a side note, I find it interesting that she chose to study a language other than Spanish at the time.)

On the college level, as Kevin Williamson has shrewdly pointed out, both Longoria's alma mater (Texas A&M-Kingsville) and her home state's flagship university (the University of Texas) refuse admission to students who did not complete two years of a foreign language in high school.

For shits and giggles, I randomly chose a university from what liberals would consider a flyover state -- Iowa State University, to be exact -- and googled its admissions requirements. Turns out that it too requires two years of a foreign language in high school in order to be accepted, and its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires three years of a foreign language in high school.

More than 15 years ago I walked into a Target in Miami and found that its signs were not merely printed in Spanish as well as English, but that the Spanish was on top.

Check the laws and you will see that the U.S. has never had an official language. You will also find that election ballots are printed in multiple languages in every state in the union -- even Vermont!

By contrast, Italy has one official language and it is Italian; Romania has one and it is Romanian; Sweden has one and it is Swedish; France has one and it is French; Ecuador has one and it is Spanish; Brazil has one and it is Portugese; Japan has one and it is Japanese; Australia has one and it is English; et cetera, and et cetera.

You get the picture. We do many things in this country, but "promote monolingualism" ain't one of them; and even if it was, we sure as hell wouldn't be "the only country" doing it.

*     *     *     *     *

Perhaps what Eva Longoria has to say isn't important and should be ignored.

But perhaps it is important and shouldn't be ignored, because it provides an accurate picture of the strange ethnic obsessions that animate one of America's two major political parties.

What annoys me is not that Eva Longoria wants to pay homage to her distant ancestors. What annoys me is that she wants to pay homage while conspicuously belittling her own country's society -- a society whose environment has allowed her to thrive much more than she could have ever done in any of the Latin American societies she seems to be more fond of.

Nowhere in the interview was there a hint that she cares for her own country. Referring to her family's longevity in Texas, she did say she is "more American than Bill O'Reilly," but that was clearly meant as an indictment of O'Reilly and not a declaration of love for America, or even respect for America.

Eva Longoria's parents are Republicans, and since hers has been a ranching family for almost twice as long as the United States has been a nation, I suspect they aren't the only Republicans with whom she shares a gene pool.

The United States is a melting pot and so is the culture it has produced for generations on end. By obsessing over one of the soup's ingredients instead of noticing the delectable soup that is the end result of all the inredients melding together, it seems that Ms. Longoria is betraying her heritage rather than embracing it.

*     *     *     *     *

And now, may I ask you to check back next week for Part Two? You might be surprised with what I have to say, considering what you just read.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Da Via in Dunwoody

Who would have thought that in one of the nicer (read: pricier) parts of Atlanta there would be a restaurant where you can partake of quality food, beer, and wine and do it all on the cheap? I am happy to have learned that such a place exists.

15 miles north of downtown Atlanta you will find Dunwoody, Georgia, draped on what probably count as foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dunwoody existed as a rural burg for many generations before Atlanta started to sprawl, though it never incorporated as an official town through all that time.

In 1971 the Perimeter Mall was built here, and with it being immediately accessible from the beltway that is Interstate 285, the end of Dunwoody's idyllic days became inevitable. Today it is one of the shoulder-to-shoulder, cobbled-together suburbs that make Atlanta the USA's second largest metropolis in terms of size and ninth largest in terms of population.

Counterintuitively, Dunwoody finally incorporated in 2006, more than 170 years after it was first settled and decades after it first seemed to get swallowed by the big city. Although many people call it "Atlanta Perimeter" without the word "Dunwoody" ever crossing their lips, it is technically separate from Atlanta proper and even from DeKalb County now that it has its own police force, fire department, and city hall. It is also a business hub with modern office towers and the corporate headquarters of Porsche Cars North America, InterContinental Hotels Group, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As of the 2010 census it had a population of more than 46,000 living within its 13 square miles, and as you might expect given that those 13 square miles are urbanized and shared with a cluster of businesses and hotels, many of Dunwoody's residents reside in condos, apartments, and lofts. With the median family income sitting just north of a hundred grand, those dwellings tend to be handsome and upscale, and many of the residents get where they are going by walking along the leafy thoroughfares rather than driving on them.

But I digress. I think I have established why you would not expect to find a good cheap restaurant here, but it's about time I started talking about the restaurant itself:

At first glance, da Via Italian Market Eating seems to be a strange name for a sit-down restaurant. But at second glance, after you learn that da Via means "the street" in Italian, this restaurant's angle starts to make sense in a way I hope to soon make clear.

Da Via is not a glittering Italian eatery like this one in Tampa or this one in Manhattan, but it is damn good with homemade sauces and market fresh ingredients. All entrees go for a mere $6.95 and all libations for a mere $3.

The beer and wine selections are not extensive but they are high on quality. Beers come from two nearby breweries, Monday Night and Sweetwater, though if you are not a craft beer kind of person you can still order Miller Lite. Meanwhile, the wines (Pinot Noir if you want red and Chardonnay if you want white) come from California's Coastal Vines Cellars.

And did I mention that when you order beer, they give it to you in a coozie that you may take home?

Da Via's entrees come in the form of piadas, pastas, and salads, and although you sit down to eat, there are no waitresses or waiters. Instead you go through a serving line and exercise control over what goes into the finished product, much like you would at Subway.

If you choose salad, you tell the preparer if you want romaine, iceberg, or spinach, and you tell him which other veggies to include; which cheese; which dressing; and which meat, if any (the choices being chicken, sausage, meatballs, or -- for $2 extra -- salmon).

The same options that exist for salad exist for pasta, the only difference being that you have to choose between penne and spaghetti rather than romaine, iceberg, and spinach. And of course you have to choose between sauces rather than dressings, the options being Bolognese, Rosa, Spicy Napoletana, and Mild Napoletana.

I have enjoyed everything I've gotten here, as you can tell from the fact that the pasta bowl pictured at the beginning of this post looked like this five minutes later:

I had never heard of piadas until last week. It turns out that they have been a popular street food for many years in the Romagna region of northeast Italy, made by putting the fillings atop a flatbread, then folding the flatbread over and cooking it.

My first experience eating here did not involve salad, pasta, or piadas, however. Instead it involved da Via sticks, which are billed as an appetizer and are very similar to a burrito except for being a little skinnier and a little less stuffed. Two Sundays ago I wandered into da Via craving something pizza-like; saw a tray of piping hot pepperoni-stuffed da Via sticks sitting on the counter; and knew I had to try them. I ordered two, then fell deeply in love with their price of $1.95 each, then fell even deeper in love with their taste.

If you find yourself in these parts you will be doing yourself a disservice not to come to da Via. To get here, turn north off of Perimeter Center West onto Olde Perimeter Way and follow it a couple blocks up a gradual hill. Da Via will be on your right, marked by its yellow bicycle parked on the sidewalk near an old-looking street clock:

Obviously you can eat inside, but if you are like me and Erika, you will choose to eat in the outdoor dining area that sits just below sidewalk level:

When you are done, I recommend working off the calories by walking around the area. As tends to be the case in places whose urbanization occurred in recent decades rather than generations ago, the area right around da Via has lots of chain stores and chain restaurants rather than old school mom-and-pops.

But that does not mean that Dunwoody is "the same as everywhere else," for if you look closely you will find lots of hidden gems that are not visible to people in their cars -- things like the following statue. It sits amid an immaculate landscape below an office tower, rendered invisible to cars by a hedge and slope. But when you are walking, all you need to do is peer over the hedge and you will see it sitting there.

But then again again, who looks closely even when they are walking? Make yourself one of those who does. Make yourself one of those who notices the pointed lobes on the leaves of English ivy climbing up the trunk of an oak; one of those who takes a second look at that dragonfly and realizes it's actually a hummingbird. You won't regret it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Six Weeks In

On September 15th, I wrote that the first three weeks of the college football season taught us "nothing, except that the whole idea of pre- and early-season polling is stupid."

Now that we are six weeks into the season, we really haven't learned much else. At this point in a season you can usually get an accurate sense of who is for real and who is not, who the top few teams are, and certainly who the top ten or so are. This year, however, everything is truly and precariously up in the air.

Everything we've actually learned has been in the negative rather than the affirmative. We can say with certainty that LSU is reeling; that South Carolina was greatly overrated after beating Georgia; that Nebraska is lost and aimless; that the Big Ten is every bit as bad as those who mock it claim; and that Texas is so bad it may very well finish near the bottom of the Big 12.

Stanford has only the eighth best record in the Pac-12... Georgia Tech is one of only ten unbeaten teams, though not a single person in the sports media has said a word about them... Indiana is the only team from the Big Ten to win a good game out of conference... Will Muschamp acted like it was a colossal achievement for his Florida Gators to beat Tennessee, even though they've beaten them ten years in a row... Against Cal, Washington State QB Connor Halliday three for an astonishing 734 yards while leading his team to 59 points -- and they lost.

Both the AP and coaches' polls have Florida State and Auburn ranked 1-2, for good reason. However, anyone who has watched them play can see that both teams' weakness, right now, is its offensive line; and everybody who knows football is aware that weakness in the offensive line is a kiss of death when it comes to winning the national championship.

The national press corps acted stunned that Ole Miss beat Alabama and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M. Maybe their surprise is a result of those games taking place on the same day, but they should not be surprised because: 1) Ole Miss has been stocking up nationally renowned recruiting classes and entered the weekend giving up only 8.5 points per game; and 2) Mississippi State has been dominating the line of scrimmage and looking like a force ever since the first play of the season.

I am an Auburn graduate/partisan and Auburn is ranked near the top of the polls, so I can't help but share my thoughts about my team. This year's group of receivers is the best in America and the best in school history... Nick Marshall has completed the right throws at clutch times since game one, and his passing has improved every week... Cameron Artis-Payne is a workhorse of a RB who hasn't lost a fumble despite his heavy load... On defense, the tackling is lights-out, better than it has been since the Tommy Tuberville era and maybe even since the Pat Dye era... A downside is that the defenders have surrendered far more yards on first down than I am comfortable with; however, they have more than made up for it by shutting the door hard on second and third down -- as evidenced by them holding LSU to 0-for-13 on third down conversion attempts and 0-for-4 on fourth downs... In Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost, they have two of the best simultaneously playing linebackers in school history.

Unfortunately, I already mentioned the "but," and that is the offensive line. Actually, I'll make it a "twofer but" by adding that the D line is also a weak link.

Don't get me wrong. Neither line is bad. But after coming within 13 seconds of the national championship last season, winning the national title has become this team's measuring stick. That might be an unfair standard to hold young men to, but it is what it is -- and so far the O line has at many times failed to hold its run blocks long enough for Cameron Artis-Payne to make his cuts, while the D line has way too often allowed holes to open up for opposing running backs... The skill players on offense have overcome the sketchy run blocking, while the linebackers and secondary have bailed the D line out. But against the brutal schedule Auburn faces from here to the end of the season, you can't rely on that happening every week... All of which means that although I know Auburn is one of America's best teams and I expect them to have a damn good season when all is said and done, I don't expect them to win the national championship. Unless the lines improve, that is. Which they certainly could.

In any event, based on what has happened up to now, below is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty. Of course, "based on what has happened up to now" means this will change significantly between now and season's end.

1.    Florida State
2.    Mississippi State
3.    Ole Miss
4.    Auburn
5.    Baylor
6.    Arizona
7.    Oregon
8.    Alabama
9.    Michigan State
10.  Notre Dame
11.  Oklahoma
12.  Georgia
13.  Kansas State
14.  UCLA
15.  Texas A&M
16.  Oklahoma State
17.  TCU
18.  East Carolina
19.  Georgia Tech
20.  Ohio State

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

et ceteras (or should I call them complaints?)

A media complaint
Over the last several days, starting before Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes, I have heard multiple reporters and commentators say that Obama's original judgment of ISIS was wrong because the intelligence reports he received were inaccurate. And that's all they have said: inadequate intel, nothing more, nothing less.

Which leads me to ask: Did those same reporters and commentators have a little, um, more to say when George W. Bush was president and the Iraq invasion did not find any of the weapons of mass destruction that the intelligence reports said were there?

Obviously, my question is rhetorical.

A GOP complaint
Last week, 30-year-old Muslim convert Alton Nolen beheaded his 54-year-old co-worker Colleen Hufford at their place of employment, then attacked 43-year-old co-worker Traci Johnson in an attempt to do the same to her. His killing spree was stopped not because the police or some other government authority arrived from wherever they were stationed, but because the emplyer's COO, Mark Vaughan, shot him.

This was a perfect example of murder being committed/attempted with something other than a gun, and a gun being used to stop the murdering and protect the innocent. Maybe I should gripe that no one in the media has bothered to say that Nolen would have succeeded in killing Johnson (and probably gone on to kill others) if not for the fact that Vaughan was armed. Maybe I should gripe that no one in the media has acknowledged that this case shows how guns save lives and that it provides a vivid example of why the Second Amendment is so important.

But instead I am going to aim my complaint directly at the GOP, because Republican politicians everywhere -- especially those up for election or re-election next month -- should be citing this horrifying event to make the anti-gun-control case; and they should be making that case loudly and clearly. Instead, all I can hear is a faint chirping of crickets.

Republican silence on this is disheartening, to put it mildly, and is a perfect illustration of why so many of the Republicans' most loyal constituents think they can't be trusted to stand up for what they supposedly believe. It is also a perfect illustration of why I do not expect a "Republican wave" in November and am not optimistic that the Republicans will take the Senate. The Democrats have done way more than enough to lose the votes of everyday Americans, but the Republicans, as a whole, have not done anything to indicate that they deserve those votes either. How sad.

A Krugman complaint
Actually, let me start by doing the unthinkable: Saying that Paul Krugman, the often wrong and always deceiving economist who writes for the New York Times, recently offered an opinion with which I agree.

He did so with the following observation: "For many of the rich, flaunting is what it's all about. Living in a 30,000 square foot house isn't much nicer than living in a 5,000 square foot house; there are, I believe, people who can really appreciate a $350 bottle of wine, but most of the people buying such things wouldn't notice if you substituted a $20 bottle, or maybe even a Trader Joe's special." In my opinion that passage is one hundred percent accurate -- as far as it goes.

The problem is that Krugman intends it to go much farther, and as is his wont, he used it as a springboard to argue that the rich somehow drag down the economy for everyone else and need to be forced to pay even more in taxes than they already do. Implicit in his diatribe is an assumption that because a hypothetical CEO pays more for his preferred goods and services than a hypothetical electrician pays for his, the CEO is not contributing enough to the common welfare.

Krugman's implication and his desired "fix" are so wrongheaded that to critique them from every legitimate angle would require multiple blog posts. Therefore I will stick to the following.

Every time one of "the rich" resides in a 30,000 square foot house, he directly contributes to the well-being of the grounds people, pest control people, pool service people, and maids whose services he employs...and the amount he pays for water and electricity boosts the bottom lines of utility companies, thus contributing to the well-being and job security of those who are employed by the utilities...and the massive amount he pays in property taxes fills the coffers of a municipal government so that it may better provide police protection, firefighting, non-potholed roads, etc., to the community as a whole...and if he has his home built rather than buying it "pre-owned," he contributes mightily to the well-being of the carpenters, pavers, roofers, electricians, etc., that he employs in the endeavor...and in each instance listed above, he contributes far more to other people by investing in a 30,000 square foot home than if he had invested in a 5,000 square foot home.

When it comes to their choices of fermented grape juice, every time one of "the rich" purchases a $350 bottle of wine, he contributes to the economic well-being of whichever winery produced it -- which means he contributes to the economic well-being not only of the winery's owner but of everyone who works there, including the winemaker, viticulturalists, farmhands, fruit pickers, bottlers, tour guides, etc...and if he buys the bottle from a store, he contributes to the well-being of the store's owner and employees...and if he buys it at a restaurant, he helps the restaurant turn a profit and thereby contributes to the well-being of its owner and workers; and he contributes even more to his waiter or waitress by virtue of the tip he is sure to leave...and if the wine is imported, he contributes to the well-being of the transportation company that brings it here and of the import/export merchant who procures it.

In other words, shut yer yap Mr. Krugman. What motivates "the rich" is irrelevant and insignificant. The economic activities in which they engage do far more to assist the people of this country and keep them employed than you seem to realize. Which makes it disturbing that you are known as "an economist." If you were to stop "the rich" from doing what they want, the people who would suffer would not be them -- the sufferers would be countless citizens lower on the ladder who make a living by providing them with what they want.