Thursday, June 23, 2016

et ceteras

My June 14th post had lots of good things to say about the American people's reaction to the massacre in Orlando.

I do not retract a single word, for my thoughts and observations have not changed, but I do want to clarify something: Just because I think America's citizens have acted with unifying grace does not mean I believe America's left wing pundits and politicians have acted that way.

On the contrary, journalists, Democrat politicians, and all the other movers and shakers of the Left have been their usual selves, which is to say they have been divisive and dishonest and dishonorable. The man who committed the massacre was a Koran-reading, avowedly Muslim Democrat steeped in Islamist culture -- yet the movers and shakers of the Left blame the massacre on the culture of Bible-reading, avowedly Christian Republicans.

I won't say any more about that sadly typical phenomenon because David French and Jonah Goldberg have already penned masterful pieces on the topic. Go here and here to check them out.

On a similar note...
...somebody attempted to assassinate the presumptive Republican presidential nominee at a campaign rally last Saturday, and not a single jounalist, Dem pol, or other member of the Left's movers and shakers bothered to even criticize it, much less suggest that the Left's long history of hatred and violence might have created a culture that incubates hatred and violence.

If someone tried to assassinate Hillary Clinton, you know damn well that every journalist and Democrat politician from sea to shining sea would be all over the airwaves denouncing "right wing hatred" and blaming the assassination attempt on every conservative from milquetoast Mitt Romney to 85-year-old Thomas Sowell.

If you doubt that the Left has a history of hatred and violence, here, for your consideration, are the names of just a few of history's leftists: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Benito Mussolini, Bull Connor, the Castro brothers, Che Guevara, Elijah Muhammad, the Earth Liberation Front, the Weather Underground... and etc... and etc.

And for anyone who still believes the college pothead fantasy that Che Guevara was a "man of the people" and not a cold-blooded murderer, here you go.

And there's this: The late Fred Phelps (founder and leader of Kansas's notorious Westboro Baptist Church, whose web site is actually called was a lifelong Democrat who ran for governor as a Democrat as recently as 1998. Look it up.

On another similar note...
A French editorial cartoon has recently started making the rounds on Facebook. It shows a child standing on a step stool struggling to reach a shelf where books are kept, while five guns hang at a lower and easily accessible level and an American flag sits nearby. The caption translates, albeit roughly, to: "We can judge a society by what it makes easily accessible."

How does one even start to comment on the cartoonist's colossal ignorance?

Obviously, he or she knows nothing about the accessibility of guns in the United States. The implication that they are easier to obtain than books would be laughable if it weren't so libelous. Everywhere you go in this country, books are easily and quickly available, often for free (ever heard of libraries?). On the other hand, acquiring guns requires major investments of time and money even in states with the most lenient gun laws (by the way, those lenient states include such hotbeds of right wing extremism as Vermont and Maine).

Plus, I find it interesting that the cartoonist chooses to criticize our country, where gun ownership is permitted on a voluntary basis, while not criticizing Switzerland, where gun ownership is mandated regardless of your personal beliefs about guns.

And for my American liberal friends, almost all of whom are certain to think of this cartoon as a wise critique on American society: If you believe it is good to judge a society by what it makes easily accessible, and if you believe (as most of you do) that European society is more enlightened that ours, then what do you say about the fact that European nations make abortions much, much, much harder to get than they are here? Does that make you rethink your lockstep devotion to abortion on demand at any time for any reason?

Mr. Hockey
I spend a lot of time writing about hockey, so it seems like I should chime in about Gordie Howe in the wake of his death, but I don't feel like I have anything to add to the conversation.

The first time I watched a hockey game was February 22, 1980 -- 'twas the Miracle On Ice -- and Howe's finale took place 46 days later on April 9th. As a 9-year old in pre-Reagan Florida, I did not have an opportunity to watch any Hartford Whalers games during that brief period so I never saw Mr. Hockey play. Therefore I will limit my remarks to mentioning two of my favorite Howe factoids.

In 1957 -- his eleventh season in the NHL -- Detroit was playing Toronto when defenseman Bob Baun leveled him with malicious intent. A full decade later, in 1967, Howe drilled Baun in open ice and his stick hit him in the throat; then he stood over him and declared: "Now we're even."

The other factoid is this: That Gordie Howe jersey worn by Ferris Bueller's friend Cameron was a gift Howe had given to Director John Hughes -- so now you know why a Chicago teen was walking around Chicago wearing Detroit garb on that famous "day off."

More hockey
It says a lot about the game's proliferation that two of the top five prospects in tomorrow's draft -- including the projected number one overall pick -- are from Arizona. It proves that the NHL staking itself in the desert is bearing big time fruit, even though I believe Winnipeg got screwed by the staking.

Also, I believe the NHL expanding to Las Vegas is very good for the game, even though I believe Quebec City deserves (and is owed) a team.

But for now I am tired, so I am signing off. Have a good one.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Grail in Grasp

Driving into Pennsylvania from West Virginia, traveling north through the Alleghenies on US 19, you are treated to a landscape of forested mountains and scenic valleys. The further you get from the state line, farms gradually become less prevalent and dottings of homes more prevalent, but Nature continues to dominate. Even when buildings become ubiquitous enough to signal you're in a suburb, it doesn't really feel like it because the slopes are still wooded and trees still reign.

After an hour or so, US19 and Interstate 376 hook up as one road. Before long the road leads you into the 56-year-old Fort Pitt Tunnel, which bores through Mount Washington for almost seven-tenths of a mile... and when you emerge from the darkness on the other side, this is the view you immediately see:

It is the most startling introduction to a city anywhere in these United States and perhaps the world. While the steep north slope of Mount Washington rises directly behind you, the modern skyline of downtown Pittsburgh stands, wholly unexpected, directly in front of you; and the Monongahela River flows roughly six stories below, for you are now driving across the upper deck of the world's first computer-designed bowstring arch bridge. It's striking, the difference between what lies north of the mount versus south of it.

Moments later you exit onto the streets of downtown and head east for a few blocks on Boulevard of the Allies, paralleling the Monongahela, before turning north and making your way to Fifth Avenue. That is where you find Consol Energy Center, home to the hockey team that on Sunday proved itself the best on Earth.

If you stand there, you will not only be standing next to the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins -- you will be standing in the heart of our nation's true hockey capital.

*     *     *     *     *

I know many people call Detroit "Hockeytown," but that's only because they are susceptible to advertising gimmicks. I'm not saying there are no good hockey fans in Detroit, but I am saying -- because it's true -- that it was a 1996 marketing campaign that first referred to Detroit by that name.

Because the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997, the name stuck even after Detroiters failed to sell out playoff games during their 2008 championship run... but if you want to know which American burg has the longest standing legit claim to the title of "Hockeytown," look not to Eastern Michigan but to Western PA, and let your eyes fall upon the 'Burgh.

Although there is no question that Canada is both the cradle and Everest of hockey, it was south of the border, here in Pittsburgh, that the game was first played indoors on man-made ice on a regular basis. That was way back in the 1890's and the venue was the opulent Schenley Park Casino, not far from the University of Pittsburgh.

And it was here (in 1896) that the world's first professional hockey league, the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (WPHL), was both founded and based. Back then, in Canada it was illegal to pay people to play sports, and therefore many of the best Canadian players started moving here to play in the WPHL. That forced Canada to change its laws, which in turn led to the creation of the National Hockey League, so it can be said that without Pittsburgh there would be no NHL.

Despite the fraudulent concept of the Original Six, whose members include Detroit but not the 'Burgh, history shows that Pittsburgh had an NHL team prior to Detroit. It also shows that Pittsburgh had an NHL team prior to another of the Original Six, namely Chicago.

This means that of the so-called "original" six cities, one-third fail to pre-date the 'Burgh when it comes to NHL hockey being played there. And if you look at things from a franchise-specific perspective, it turns out that fully half of the so-called "original" six franchises (namely the Red Wings, Blackhawks, and NY Rangers) fail to pre-date the 'Burgh's original team in the league.

*     *     *     *     *

The first NHL franchise in Pittsburgh was called the Pirates, and it was the city's first professional sports team to wear the yellow and black colors that have become synonymous with the city. Pittsburgh's current pro teams -- the Penguins, Steelers, and baseball Pirates -- all wear yellow and black.

Obviously, the hockey Pirates did not survive to the present, but that was not due to a lack of hockey enthusiasm among the citizens. The primary causes of the Pirates' going under were the financial losses suffered by their owners in the 1929 stock market crash, and the Great Depression economy that followed (and it's hard not to suspect that the losses were exacerbated by the fact that the owners were a bootlegger and a fight promoter).

The Pirates had a lasting impact on the game despite playing for less than a decade. Under the tutelage of player-coach Odie Cleghorn, they were the first team to change players on the fly, and the first to use set lines rather than just leaving their best players on the ice until they couldn't go any longer. Four Pirates are in the Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, after World War II got going the NHL went ages without expanding, and even if it had expanded sooner than it did, Pittsburgh might have been left out because it lacked an up-to-date arena as the post-war years began to unfold.

Nonetheless, the minor league Pittsburgh Hornets kept hockey very much alive in the city, playing most of their history in aging Duchesne Gardens and sometimes allowing kids to skate on the ice after games:

In 1961 the "arena issue" was solved by the opening of the 17,000-seat, retractable-roofed Civic Arena, whose appearance combined with its eventual use for hockey caused it to be known as the Igloo:

When the NHL finally expanded in 1967, the Penguins came into being.

As everyone knows, Mario Lemieux suited up for them starting in the mid-1980's and was arguably the best player of all time, with apologies to Gretzky and Howe.

Later he was joined by Jaromir Jagr, who also has a claim to that "arguably the best ever" title (with apologies to Gretzky, Howe, and Lemieux).

Powered by Lemieux and Jagr, the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

After losing the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit in seven games, they again faced Detroit for the Cup in 2009, and that time won in seven games to secure the franchise's third world championship.

Which brings us to this year's version of championship Pens...

*     *     *     *     *

The Penguins have remained talented ever since they won it all in '09. However, many people have been less than impressed with their post-season results because they experienced three first round eliminations and no return to the SCF during the six seasons from 2010 through 2015.

Of course that's not fair, especially when you consider the roster turnover, coaching changes, and amount of time Sidney Crosby missed with concussion issues. Those who talked about the Pens as post-season flops seemed not to notice that they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and to the second round in 2010 and 2014.

But for the first two months of this season, it looked like the naysayers might be right to say the Pens weren't good enough to win it all. They appeared wayward, Crosby was struggling, and in mid-December their place in the rankings was low enough that they would have missed the playoffs had the season ended at that time.

That is when ownership pulled the trigger by firing head coach Mike Johnston and replacing him with Mike Sullivan from their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton affiliate -- and did that move ever pay off, as the team caught fire and Crosby got his groove back.

Down the home stretch, the Pens were the hottest club in the league and looked like the kind of machine nobody would want to face in the playoffs. They didn't miss a beat even when Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury went down with late-season injuries that caused them to spend 1.5 and 2 months out of the lineup, respectively.

Then came a post-season run that can truly be called spectacular... First they blew the Rangers out of the water, averaging 4.2 goals per game and chasing Henrik Lundqvist from the net three times... Next they eliminated the Washington Capitals, who had the best record in the league and were favored to win it all... Then they overcame a 3-2 series deficit to win the Eastern Conference Finals over the Lightning in seven games (damn it)... And finally, they controlled San Jose for most of the Stanley Cup Finals before closing it out Sunday night in Game Six.

They officially became the champs at 10:47 Pennsylvania time, 7:47 California time. This edition of the Penguins is the fourth in franchise history to win the Cup, and may very well be the best of the four. But they have so many key parts to mention, where do you even start?

*     *     *     *     *

Sid the Kid:  It might seem strange to still be calling Sidney Crosby "the kid" after 11 seasons in the NHL, but don't forget that he's played all those years and is still only 28... A month and a half into this particular campaign, he was a miserable 157th in the league in points; but after he got rolling, he became unstoppable and roared up the rankings to finish third with 85 points (36, 49) in 80 games played... Crosby's post-season was filled with faceoffs won at key times; perfect field generaling; more between-the-legs passes than anyone could count; and a tally of 19 points on 6 goals and 13 assists in 24 playoff games. His OT goal in Game Two of the ECF prevented the Penguins from falling into a 2-0 series deficit against the Lightning (damn it) that might have been too steep for them to overcome. This centerman from Nova Scotia absolutely earned the Conn Smythe he received on Sunday.

Malkin:  You wouldn't know it if all you did was listen to what media people say, but Evgeni Malkin registered just one fewer playoff point than Crosby (6, 12, 18) despite missing the last month and a half of the regular season and therefore having to cope with rust. He was all over the ice in the last two rounds, and his game-winner in Game Four of the SCF gave his team that 3-1 series lead which almost guaranteed they would win the whole thing.

HBK:  Even more so than established stars Crosby and Malkin, it was the so-called HBK Line that made Pittsburgh's motor run from playoff start to playoff finish. Comprised of Nick Bonino (the B) centering Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel (the H and K), this trio rang up an astonishing 56 points on the stat sheet and proved to be the league's most prolific post-season line... and to top it off, none of them played for the Pens the year before, with Kessel and Bonino being acquired during the offseason and Hagelin being brought in via trade in January... and to illustrate just how insanely deep the Penguins are at forward, this unit is their third line.

Team D:  Trevor Daley is the Penguins' best defenseman, and entering Game Four of the ECF they were already short-staffed defensively and Daley had logged the second-most playoff ice time of anyone on the roster. So when he suffered a broken ankle in that contest that would sideline him indefinitely, it was the kind of loss that would cripple most teams -- but not this one... The Penguins responded by playing committed, disciplined, team-wide defense until such time as they would hoist the Cup. They blocked shots, took away passing lanes, and cleared the puck from their zone so that their opponent, be it Tampa Bay or San Jose, had to struggle just to set up on offense.

The Rookies:  Much has been said about Matt Murray, and for good reason. Called up from the minors in December, he made his first NHL appearance six days before Christmas and played in only 13 games before the playoffs started; but with Marc-Andre Fleury not medically cleared to return from his concussions, Murray eagerly assumed the starting goaltender role for the playoffs and played so well that he received serious Conn Smythe consideration... However, another rookie deserves almost as many accolades: RW Bryan Rust, the former Notre Dame star who plays on the Penguins' bottom line but seemed to have top-six impact every time he was on the ice. Playing with a perfect blend of grit and grace, Rust scored both Pittsburgh goals in their Game Seven win in the ECF (damn it) and his six total goals in the post-season were just as many as Crosby and Malkin.

And there are plenty of other key pieces that could be talked about, but I am going to focus on one...

*     *     *     *     *

Kessel:  As much as Crosby deserved the Conn Smythe, Phil Kessel deserved it more. His 22 playoff points (10, 12) led the team. He played fast, shrewd, and clutch, seeming to electrify the ice every time he stepped on it.

One wouldn't think that a player with Phil Kessel's resume would need to prove his worth. Drafted fifth overall by Boston, he scored 36 goals during a dazzling 2008-09 season when he was just 21. After being traded to Toronto, he spent six years in the self-proclaimed hockey capital of the world and was always the best forward on the team, scoring 30+ in four of those six years... And if you're talking about post-season productivity, just consider that Kessel's career rate of 0.5 goals per playoff game ranks third-best of all active players over the last 16 years. Also, coming into this year he ranked second in primary playoff points since 2007 among all players who logged at least 200 minutes of playoff ice time across that span.

But unfortunately for this 28-year-old Wisconsinite, playing in Toronto isn't good for your reputation if you happen to have been born in the United States. A venomous strain of anti-American bigotry flows through the veins of many members of the Toronto media, and a softer but still palpable strain of that prejudice flows through the veins of some Toronto fans.

Never mind that Kessel was the Leafs' best player and often their only good forward: When the Queen City's partisans needed to blame someone for their team's inability to be a contender, their arrows inevitably got aimed at the team's highest profile American.

Unable to find anything in his playing style or productivity to criticize, they decided to claim that he eats too many hot dogs and thereby keeps himself from being the best he can be, which thereby undermines not just his own character but that of his teammates. Thus, many Leafs fans said their team would be better off without him. Seriously.

To be fair, I too am guilty of poking fun at Kessel's, shall we say, uncoventional body shape (if that was really me who referred to him as "a rotund, cholesterol-soaked dead ringer for John Kruk"). But hey, whoever (ahem) wrote that was just joshing and engaging in jocular hyperbole. I am glad to see Kessel stick his finger in the eye of his detractors and do so without saying anything negative about them.

*     *     *     *     *

In closing, I am disappointed that the Tampa Bay Lightning fell short of grasping the holiest grail in sports this month. But I take comfort in knowing that the only team that could stop them is truly the best one on the planet.

If the Bolts had to lose, there is no other team or organization I would rather lose to, and no other city I would rather see staging a championship parade. The Igloo has been replaced by Consol Energy Center, and Mario Lemieux has been replaced by Sidney Crosby on the ice; but Lemieux is not only still around the team, he now owns the team, and Crosby has proven himself a worthy heir to Lemieux's crown.

The Penguins are still the Penguins, Pittsburgh is still a hotbed for hockey passion, and the Cup being there is good for the game.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On This Flag Day

It has now been well more than 48 hours since the mass shooting in Orlando. I don't have the time to write about it and do it the justice it deserves, but I will say that it was an attack against America in general, not only against what has come to be called the LGBT community.

Regardless of whatever individual ingredients were included in Omar Mateen's psychological stew, fundamentalist Islam was the pot that cooked the stew. Fundamentalist Islam is fundamentally anti-American because it is fundamentally opposed to individual liberty -- which makes it fundamentally intolerant, since a free society must necessarily be a tolerant one.

Ours is a nation based not on geography or ethnicity or any other "accident of birth," but on ideals -- primarily the ideal of individual liberty.

When Mateen gunned down more than 100 people in the wee hours Sunday morning, he attacked them and their loved ones far more wickedly than he attacked the rest of us. But make no mistake, he did attack the rest of us because he was also targeting our collective, foundational right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He sought not only to murder gay people, but to help unsettle a society whose founding principles enshrine people's right to be what they are and do what they choose so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. He sought to advance a theocratic agenda that aims to crush individual rights and sweep them from the face of the earth.

Of course, we as a nation have not attained our goal as a nation. Because countries are composed of human beings and all human beings are flawed, our goal might not even be attainable. But over the course of history, the United States has come closer than any other country to achieving the goal, precisely because it is our goal.

Not for nothing did Martin Luther King write: "We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom."

Not for nothing did Richard Nixon, of all people, hit the nail on the head when he said: "Let us reject the narrow visions of those who would tell us that we are evil because we are not yet perfect, that we are corrupt because we are not yet pure, that all the sweat and toil and sacrifice that have gone into the building of America were for naught because the building is not yet done."

Our nation is struggling with many ills at this point in history, but the immediate wake of the June 12th massacre is not the proper time to pick nits over those ills. Since the news broke, what I have noticed most about our people, the American people, is our unity.

It reminds me of the inflection my grandfather often used when he spoke our country's name. A World War II veteran and quite rebellious Baptist preacher, he made a point of saying "we are the United States."

Yes, I am opposed to tribalism and identity politics and I think they pose an internal threat to our nation. But I am not at all offended by the proliferation of rainbow-tinged profile pictures that have popped up on Facebook over the last couple days, almost all of them posted by heterosexuals. To me, they are a sign of unity within our borders and an affirmation of our common humanity. They show the world that an attack against any part of America is an attack against all, and that we will not stand for it.

And yes, of course we should extend that support beyond our borders, to freedom lovers across the globe, for that is the American thing to do. Like Henry Cabot Lodge once put it: "I will go as far as anyone in world service, but the first step in world service is the maintenance of the United States...for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin."

Today is Flag Day. I hope most of us take a moment on this day to appreciate the freedom that is symbolized by Old Glory, and I hope we use it to strengthen our collective resolve to defeat those who would extinguish it.

And with that thought in mind, here is my own little salute to our country, which I have published before, "illustrating" the lyrics to God Bless America using photographs I've taken across our "fruited plain":

God bless America...

Land that I love...

Stand beside her and guide her...

Through the night...

With the light from above...

From the mountains...

To the prairies...

To the oceans white with foam...

God bless America...

My home sweet home...

Note: The final picture was taken by Kelly Noel.

Monday, June 6, 2016


72 years ago this morning, human beings from the naval forces of eight Allied nations laid their lives on the line in ways most of us can hardly fathom. Two-thirds of them were from the U.S.U.K., and Canada.

Traveling in ships and amphibious vessels, they set sail from England in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, bound for the Normandy beaches of Nazi-controlled France. It was the first time since the 1600’s that any invading military had crossed the perilous waters of the English Channel, and as day broke tens of thousands of troops disembarked from their landing crafts and plunged into Hell on Earth.

Slogging first through waves and then through sand, they were sitting ducks for the Nazi gunners positioned on shore. Bullets rained on them amidst a cacophony of explosive reverberations. The men at the fronts of the landing crafts were the first ones to step on the beach, and they stepped onto it knowing they were likely to get shot. Each of them was acutely aware he might be entering the final seconds of his life.

Approximately 10,000 Allied men were killed or wounded that day. However, in bearing that brunt of brutality, those who were first on the scene helped clear the way for 100,000 of their fellow soldiers to reach shore and advance against the enemy, freeing occupied towns as they went. By the end of the month more than 800,000 men had done so, and the war’s momentum had swung in the Allies’ favor. Within a year the Nazis surrendered unconditionally.

In military parlance, the phrase “D-Day” refers to the first day of any operation, but in the public’s mind, it will always refer to the events on the beaches of Normandy. Now the men who braved the bullets on that distant shore are dying away at a rapid rate. Let us give them our thanks while they are still alive to hear it.

After all, we might never have tasted freedom if not for the valor of the soldiers of '44. Because of that, we must resolve to pass their story on to our children, so that they may pass it on to theirs, to preserve what Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the mystic chords" of our nation's memory.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sports are a splendid escape. I frequently use this blog to kvetch about the state of society and world affairs, but as often happens in the spring, I have recently devoted most of my writing to hockey -- and as always happens when I do that, it has made writing more enjoyable.

However, two recent events are compelling me to return to social/political kvetching. I am talking about the "controversies" over bathrooms and over the killing of Harambe the gorilla, which are related even if they don't seem like it at first glance -- and I am exaggerating only mildly when I say these controversies signal that American society is on the verge of going so cuckoo that it should be placed in a straightjacket and locked up in a psych ward.

*     *     *     *     *

As you have surely heard, a terrifying incident took place two Saturdays ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, when a four-year-old boy took advantage of his mother temporarily diverting her attention to her other children.

He snuck into the gorilla enclosure. After tumbling some 15 feet down, he was approached by a 450-pound gorilla named Harambe, who proceeded to drag him about.

Cell phone video showed the boy being dragged through the water of the enclosure's moat. The lady who captured the video said that just before she started filming, the boy's head was being banged on the concrete as Harambe pulled him toward the moat.

Needless to say, a four-year-old in the opposable-thumbed hands of one of Earth's fiercest and strongest creatures is in mortal danger. A grown man would also be in mortal danger. Even if Harambe was a benevolent soul who only wanted to play with the boy or deliver him back to his mother, he could very easily and very quickly kill him by accident.

Faced with a real time decision between the life of a human child and the life of a beast, zoo officials made the only decision any moral, sane, sentient person could make: Life for the child. They shot the gorilla to save the boy, and shot to kill, which is the only responsible way to shoot. 

It is horrendous that anybody's brain could be angered by that decision.

It is baffling that anybody's brain could be enraged at the boy's parents, considering the trauma they experienced not knowing if their son would live or die while watching helplessly as he got dragged.

And if anybody's brains are wired in such a way that they have to be mad at the parents, it's revolting that they could be enraged over the fate of the gorilla instead of being angry over the son entering harm's way "on the parents' watch."

But alas, many people's minds do work in those ways. A petition called "Justice for Harambe," created by an entity called, has, as of the moment I type this sentence, gotten 500,536 signatures. The petition anguishes that a "beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep a closer watch on the child," and goes on to "actively encourage" the authorities to conduct "an investigation of the child's home environment..."

Yes, those signatories represent a minority of Americans, not a majority, but that minority is not as small as you might think. Repeat the number, ponder it, and let it sink in: five hundred thousand plus. That's more than half a mllion people, which is an extremely large amount when you consider that it is limited to those who were motivated enough to seek out a petition and sign it, or who were motivated enough that they a) moved in the circles where such a petition was circulated and b) opted to take the time to sign it.

Once upon a time in America, killing an animal to save a child was so unquestionably the right choice that nobody would have raised an eyebrow.

Today in America, that same choice invites negative reactions ranging from public condemnation to threats of legal action.

And we wonder why people's respect for their fellow man ain't what it used to be?

*     *     *     *     *

And then there are the inane "bathroom controversies" that have been marked, most recently, by criticism of the piece of geography known as North Carolina. No other ginned-up controversy in American history has been more chock full of hypocrites and brainlessness than these.

What has North Carolina done that is so bad? Its elected representatives have written into law that men's restrooms are for biological males and women's restrooms are for biological females. In other words, they have codified something that is so obviously proper and normal that it didn't require codification through all of human history -- until the minute right before now.

Go back only to the first term of our current president, and the idea of allowing grown men into women's restrooms was considered so preposterous that even a state as bed-wettingly liberal as California would have rejected it out of hand. Yet today, in the same president's second term, the drivers of our culture consider opposition to that idea to be on par with Jim Crow.

Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, and Coca Cola (along with many other PR-sensitive corporations) have publicly condemned North Carolina for its law and threatened to withhold business from the state. Their alleged reason for condemning the law is that it runs counter to their alleged concern for LGBT issues.

However, all of these organizations do tons of business in Middle Eastern nations where homosexual behavior (the LGB in LGBT) is punishable by death and tran-type behavior (the T in LGBT) is explicitly outlawed, yet none of them have bothered to condemn those nations' laws or withhold business from them.

The hypocrisy is most despicable when it comes to hipper-than-thou Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, happens to be gay himself. Last year he took it upon himself to use Apple's bully pulpit to criticize Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (because he allegedly believed it would lead to horrendous anti-gay discrimination) and this year he is aiming his arrows at North Carolina. So on he goes, hectoring from his high horse about innocuous American laws he thinks might have an anti-LGBT impact, while muting himself about foreign laws which do have that impact and even demand LGBT torture and death.

Seems to me that Cook and his ilk criticize American laws for being anti-LGBT (even when they aren't) because they think such chest-thumping will be good for their businesses in America... yet at the same time, they don't criticize foreign laws that actually are anti-LGBT because they think such chest-thumping would be bad for their businesses in those countries... so in other words, they don't have any principles; for them it's about bucks, not beliefs; and they deserve no respect when it comes to social or political matters.

Meanwhile, Pearl Jam, a mediocre band that was briefly relevant 20 years ago, broadcast its opposition to common sense the bathroom law by cancelling a concert in North Carolina... so too did Bruce Springsteen, whose zenith passed more than 30 years ago... and so too did Bryan Adams, the plastic surgery horror from British Columbia who, despite churning out fantastic rockers in the mid-1980's, was reduced to boring passionless pseudo-ballads by the early 1990's.

Of course I enjoy listening to "I'm on Fire" and "Summer of '69" as much as the next guy, but you will never find me looking to guitar-pickers for intellectual or moral enlightenment. And because I don't understand why the next guy would do so, I don't understand why the guitar-pickers think we would.

But more to the point, I don't understand why people who write about guitar-pickers think that's what we look to them for.

And if we do look to them for that, we are in one woeful pickle.

*     *     *     *     *

Forgive me, I went a little offtrack. Now I'll get back to why the bathroom controversies are at best inane and at worst insane, and how it is that they relate to the outrage over Harambe's death.

The reason bathrooms are (and always have been) differentiated by gender is for safety, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with patriarchal or heteroist or transphobic power strucures seeking to impose establishmentarian constructs on oppressed minorities.

Biologically, men are stronger than women, more prone to violence than women, and more driven by their sexual appetites than women. That is why men have no place in women's restrooms, where genitals are exposed and pants are down and women are at their most vulnerable -- and even more to the point, where girls like my 11-year-old daughter are at their most vulnerable.

Allowing grown men with functioning penises to enter that venue is plainly improper, to the point of being dangerous, and thus it is patently absurd. Yet we are being told that if we voice objection, it is we who are backward and out of line. Pardon my French, but to Hell with that.

Keep in mind that the bathroom controversies are centered not around transsexual people (those who have undergone a sex change operation) but transgendered people (men who "identify as" women despite being men, or vice-versa). What this means is that if the drivers of our culture get their way, a predatory man will have unquestionable legal access to a place where women and girls are vaginally exposed simply by saying he feels like a woman at the moment. Pardon my French again, but to Hell with that.

I feel bad for transgendered people because they did not ask to feel the way they do. They deserve our sympathy. However, there are far more perverts and pedophiles in the world than transgendered people; and by definition, perverts and pedophiles do harm others, whereas transgendered people almost always do not.

The whole point of gender-specific restrooms is to protect against the pervs and pedos, not to "discriminate" against the trans. This was so obviously the case until the moment right before now that it didn't need to be spelled out. It is maddening that in the blink of an eye society has gone from common sense being common to accusing those who have common sense of being bigots.

If a handful of transgendered people must "feel uncomfortable" in exchange for protecting our daughters and wives and mothers from actual and easily predictable harm, so be it. The trade-off isn't even close to being even.

*     *     *     *     *

So what's the connection between the gorilla controversy and bathroom controversies, you might ask?

Children, that's what.

Protecting them is the way of God, or the way of Nature if you prefer that phrasing. But it is definitely the way.

Different people have different responses when asked what they would do if they encountered a lone bear in the woods; but when asked what they would do if they encountered a mama bear with her cubs, everyone says they would give a wide berth and immediately vacate the area. And those answers would be the same if the question is what you would do if you saw a lone raccoon in your yard versus a mama raccoon with her kits. God/Nature dictates that offspring are to be protected, and protected to the extreme, and at a certain level deep down in the fibers of our being we all know this, which is why we know not to cross a mom.

But within humanity itself, at least here in the US of A, the times have been a-changin'. But not in the positive sense that Bob Dylan meant in 1964. And the changin' is rapidly leading us not to a sunlit summit but to a sewage-filled cellar.

With the bathroom controversies, large numbers of Americans have decided that the feelings of a tiny fraction of adults are more important than the physical and emotional security of all children.

With Harambe, smaller but still significant numbers of Americans are more animated by concern for the gorilla than by concern for the four-year-old boy.

Ass-backward priorities do not become ass-backward in a vacuum. It's almost too easy to link 2016 America's ambivalence toward children to 1973 America's mass legalization of abortion on demand -- and to the intervening elevation of moms killing babies to the level of a "woman's right to choose" -- but its being easy does not equal its being wrong.

Meanwhile, San Francisco, an absolutely beautiful city that is absolutely defined by human presence, is now home to 80,000 more dogs than children. And how much do you want to bet that it has a disproportionate number of Harambe sympathizers among its citizenry?

Although I deplore identity politics because they strike me as racist and intentionally divisive, I find myself longing for someone like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to connect some dots surrounding Harambe. I want them to mention how the four-year-old boy was black; how bourgeois white Americans are more concerned about Harambe than the black child; how those same bourgeois white Americans want to punish the black parents rather than whisper "there but for the grace of God go I"; and how bourgeois white Americans are crudely unconcerned about black abortion rates that are so sky high they can be fairly referred to as genocide in the womb.

If they would make that case, I would haul my white conservative ass to a march and walk beside them with my head held high. I would think they were overestimating the racial motivations behind the facts, but I would know they had the facts right and I would believe -- do believe -- that reversing those facts is imperative for America to be a good country.

But I won't hold my breath waiting for Jackson, Sharpton, et al to make that case, because in the end they are like so many other Americans, including the bourgeois whites you might have expected them to condemn. In the end, they are about themselves and everyone else is an abstract rather than a human being; it just so happens that in the case of Jackson, Sharpton, et al, their melanin content gives them a different device to exploit.

Once upon a time, Alexis de Tocqueville opined that "America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Today it feels like we are on a precipice, and we can either go over it and cease to be good, or step back from it and remain good. It feels like we have been walking toward that precipice for a while, but have recently put one of our legs out over it, into the void where gravity has outsize impact.

The good news is that our problem is a problem of the heart, meaning it does not need government spending or military action to correct it. All that is required is for the majority of us to get our hearts right and to not be afraid about speaking out.

The bad news is that our problem is a problem of the heart. If so many of us have lost our bearings that our entire culture stands on the precipice, are there enough of us left who are able and willing to get our hearts right and untie our tongues?

I don't know the answer to that last question, but I do know that the very existence of controversy over Harambe and gender-specific bathrooms proves we have lost our way.

Theocracy -- Islam version, with all of its attendant misogyny and homophobia -- is on the rise and world domination is its goal... Russia's Putin is indulging imperial tendencies, with Ukraine and Georgia in his immediate crosshairs while he no doubt salivates about the possibility of then taking over Belarus plus the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia... We have abandoned Poland and the Czech Republic by promising a missile shield to protect them from Russia, and then changing our minds as if this serious situation was akin to choosing between Bounty and Brawn when you buy paper towels... Our government's recklessness and idiocy when it comes to spending is approaching the recklessness and idiocy that have transformed great nations like Argentina and Greece into feckless basket cases of thumb-sucking dependency.

Yet what is it that motivates us to make public proclamations and draw ideological lines in the sand? Laws about whether Klinger should be allowed in the stall beside Houlihan's, and questions about whether a human child's life is more precious than that of a grown gorilla.

How do you think this will make our society appear when our descendants look back upon us?

I want to close by saying: "All I can say is God help us."

But instead, I know I should close by saying: "Why should God help us?"