Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I don't like...

...to say "I told you so." Or maybe I do. Or maybe I don't normally like to, except on those occasions when a previous post being proven right awakens the usually shy cocky side of my personality.

But here I am saying I told you so, and I'll start by quoting myself from 23 days ago:

One of the most time-"honored" traditions in American politics is to elude bad news by releasing bad news on a Friday, when nobody is paying attention because everybody is entering the weekend and thinking about cookouts and sports and going out.

Now, let me quote myself from way back on August 22nd of last year, when I wrote about Hillary's then-new email scandal:

Why is Barack Obama not being scathed by it?... government employees are supposed to use a government (.gov) email address to conduct government business, and Hillary literally never did... If Obama ever communicated with her by email, he would have seen that she was using her own email address and should have immediately seen to it that she did otherwise. If there was ever a single email exchange between the two of them -- and it strains credulity to believe there wasn't -- then Hillary's subsequent use of her own address and server is just as much Obama's fault as it is hers.

Well... lo and behold, last week brought the most significant Friday document dump in American history, when the FBI released 189 more pages of reports from its investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal. Those reports revealed not only that POTUS was conducting government business by emailing Her at Her private address, sending said emails over Her private server -- but that he did so using an alias, which is itself a major breach of security protocol.

When the FBI showed one of those emails to Huma Abedin during questioning, not only was she unaware whose alias it was, she was so taken aback by the obviously classified nature of the information within the email that she declared, about its lack of markings: "How is this not classified?"

Abedin was then informed of the identity of the man behind the alias, and the records show that after her initial dismay, she recovered and had the wherewithal to ask for a copy of the email she had just seen -- for as Andy McCarthy pointed out, she knew that "if Obama himself had been emailing over a non-government, non-secure system then everyone else who had been doing it had a get-out-of-jail-free card."

In other words, the current Democratic presidential nominee, while acting as Secretary of State, violated serious federal laws; imperiled our nation's security; and put the lives of foreign individuals who were trying to help us in mortal danger... and did it not only with President Obama's tacit approval but with his active participation (and don't forget that most intelligence experts believe her server was hacked by enemy states).

This is not only bad -- it is downright impeachable.

But Obama is fortunate. Congressional Republicans, in all their eternally spineless anti-glory, long ago declared that they would never ever impeach him for any reason whatsoever. (Apparently the thought of being called racists for impeaching the first black president bothers them more than the thought of people being killed because sensitive information was negligently allowed to fall into the wrong hands.)

Fortunately for Hillary, the FBI Director's wink-wink nod-nod kiss-kiss treatment of Her email scandal pretty much guarantees that congressional Republicans will never ever do anything to make Her accountable for Her actions, no matter how bad they may be.

As for us peasants, I suppose we should just eat our cake and be happy that instead of reporting on important matters, our free press chooses to edify us with articles about the Brangelina break-up and Charlize Theron's extra pounds.

What a friggin' mess.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Strap 'em up

With Auburn and LSU slated to do battle tonight, it feels right to re-publish my post from 2013:

Saturday night will bring this year's installment of one of the most underrated rivalries in college football.

It's understandable that no one thinks of Auburn-LSU as being in the same league as the big rivalry games that close out each season -- games like Auburn-Alabama, Michigan-Ohio State, and Florida-Florida State. But when it comes to mid-season barnburners, it is not understandable why so many people fail to put Auburn-LSU in the same category as classics like Florida-Georgia, Michigan-Notre Dame, and Washington-Oregon.

The two schools are high profile members of America's strongest conference; play in the same division within that conference; frequently contend for its championship; and in many seasons contend for the national championship.

Auburn and LSU have staged some of the most heated games in the entire sport over the last generation, many of which have been marked by the kind of weird happenstances that make sports appealing. Some of the happenstances are so unique that the games are known more for them than for who won.

Below are my favorite battles between the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers that I have witnessed with my own eyes, whether from the stands or from my couch. Rather than artificially limit the list to a "top three" or "top five," I am simply giving my favorites. Rather than undertake the impossible task of ranking them first, second, etc., I am listing them chronologically. And just to show off my fair-mindedness, I am even including ones that Auburn didn't win! Here goes:

1988:  LSU 7, Auburn 6
aka "The Earthquake Game" - 25 years ago, defenses were allowed to ply their trade with ferocity and low-scoring games were some of the most exciting around. On an intense night in Baton Rouge, two punishing defenses put the clamps on the opposing offenses for most of the night and Auburn was ahead 6-0 in the final two minutes.

Then LSU made it halfway into the red zone... Then, in classic style, Auburn bowed up, became seemingly impenetrable, and forced LSU into a 4th-and-10 at the 11-yard-line -- only to end up on the wrong side of destiny when Tommy Hodson completed a touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller in the back of the end zone... When Fuller caught the ball, the roar from the crowd was so loud that its vibrations set off a seismograph in the school's Geology Department. Hence the nickname.

1989:  Auburn 10, LSU 6
aka "We Owe You, LSU" - One year later, that is what was emblazoned on the gameday shirts sold at Tiger Rags, which were everywhere on Auburn's campus as the afternoon kickoff approached. When it arrived, the teams embarked on a near mirror image of the Earthquake Game. The defenses again controlled the action but this time it was LSU holding a slim, 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter. Despite gaining more yardage, Auburn had been unable to get an upper hand in field position thanks to the booming punts of LSU's Rene Bourgeois.

Midway through the fourth, Shayne Wasden turned the tables by fielding a Bourgeois punt and dodging an early wave of tacklers, then turning upfield and racing 33 yards before being brought down. With good field position finally in hand, Auburn marched to the end zone in five plays, the most notable of which was a 31-yard strike from Reggie Slack to tight end Victor Hall. Stacy Danley powered over the goal line from a yard out with 6:07 remaining and the defense made the lead hold up.

It might not have been the most entertaining contest in the series, but it was a nail-biter that featured an extremely high level of play -- and as an out of state freshman, it was the first game I ever attended at hallowed Jordan-Hare Stadium.

1994:  Auburn 30, LSU 26
aka "The Interception Game" - With a score like that, this had to be a showdown filled with prolific offense, right? Wrong. What makes it a classic is that all 30 of Auburn's points were scored by their defense: a safety, a fumble recovery in the end zone for one touchdown, and interception returns for the other three touchdowns. The three pick-sixes alone make it a classic oddity, for with twelve minutes remaining LSU had the ball, was ahead 23-9, and Auburn hadn't put together a drive all afternoon. Then, inexplicability ensued.

Jamie Howard threw over the middle and was picked off by Ken Alvis, who returned it 41 yards to the house to give the other Tigers a shot of hope... One minute later Howard was picked off again, this time by Fred Smith, who ran it back 32 yards and suddenly the game was tied at 23... LSU then went on a long, clock-consuming drive that ended with a field goal to put them back up 26-23, after which Auburn went three and out and LSU took over with 3:42 remaining... Apparently having learned nothing from the three preceding series, they went right back to the passing game. This time Howard threw into triple coverage, the ball was tipped, and Brian Robinson plucked it from the air and raced to the end zone for the winning score.

The oddness wasn't over yet, however. LSU drove to the Auburn 25, from which Howard again threw into triple coverage and was intercepted by Robinson... During his return, Robinson was stripped of the ball and LSU recovered at midfield to give themselves one more chance... But of course, Howard through yet another interception, this time in the end zone to Chris Shelling.

1996:  LSU 19, Auburn 15
aka "The Barn Fire Game" - If LSU could gift a game to Auburn with mindless interceptions in 1994, the refs could gift one to LSU two years later. An Auburn receiver (I think it was Karsten Bailey) was clearly inbounds when he hauled in a would-be touchdown in the east end zone, but the zebras said he was not. ESPN sideline reporter Kellen Winslow stood over the spot with cameras rolling and pointed at the divot left in the turf by the receiver's foot, referring to it as "real evidence" because there was considerable pristine space between it and the sideline.

LSU fans will say that call did not necessarily determine the outcome because it happened in the middle of the game, and will instead claim that a frenetic turn in the final 38 seconds was the decisive moment. That was when Auburn, trailing 17-9, pulled within 17-15 on a TD run by Rusty Williams. They went for two to tie it up, but Raion Hill intercepted Jon Cooley's pass and returned it all the way, which gave the two points to the Bayou Bengals instead of the hometown Tigers.

In any event, few people mention either of those things when they talk about this one. What they remember is that a plume of black smoke billowed over the west end zone in the first half and caused some to wonder if the stadium was on fire. It was another structure across the street that was going up in flames: the antiquated Auburn Sports Arena, affectionately dubbed "The Barn" because of its woodenness and shape. It housed basketball games in days of yore and in more recent decades had been home to the women's gymnastics team. I used to walk past it on my way to class, turn my head to see through its open doors, and steal glimpses of the gymnasts practicing in their leotards. Sadly, the old barn passed into the pages of history before this game reached halftime, and the cause of the blaze remains unsolved.

1997:  Auburn 31, LSU 28
aka "The No Name Game" - A moniker has not been given to this one because it contained no weirdness or singular play on which to hang your naming hat. Nevertheless, it belongs on any list of outstanding games because it was chock full of wild momentum swings and it ranks as one of the most crisply played SEC battles I have ever watched.

Defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland bulldozed his way into the Auburn backfield all night long, but couldn't stop quarterback Dameyune Craig from finding receivers downfield at key moments. Craig finished 23 of 45 for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Rusty Williams's one-yard TD run with 30 seconds left secured the win and exorcised the ghosts of his non-tying touchdown in The Barn Fire Game.

2004:  Auburn 10, LSU 9
aka "The Game of Kicks" - LSU was the defending national champion, and though nobody knew it at the time, Auburn was embarking on a 13-0 season that was one of the greatest in recent college football history. The Bayou Bengals led 9-3 for much of the day and would have been up 10-3 if their kicker hadn't missed an extra point. Late in the game, QB Jason Campbell led Auburn on a 60-yard, 12-play, 5-minute drive that culminated with him finding Courtney Taylor along the baseline of the end zone for a perfect 16-yard scoring strike with 1:14 left.

Because John Vaughn was the torch-bearer in an Auburn streak of 190 consecutive extra points without a miss, it seemed like a sure bet that AU was about to go up 10-9, but his kick sailed wide left and the crowd at Jordan-Hare was stunned silent. The silence was temporary, however, for LSU's Ronnie Purdue had come across the line early and committed a personal foul, so Vaughn's miss didn't count. Given a second chance, he put it through the uprights and the blue-and-orange-clad Tigers prevailed by one.

2005:  LSU 20, Auburn 17 (Double OT)
aka "The John Vaughn Game" - Vaughn narrowly missed being a goat on his home turf in 2004, but could not escape being one on the road in 2005. All you need to know is this: Auburn lost by one field goal, and he missed five... Had he made just one of the four he missed in regulation, this game never would have gone to overtime; and to make matters worse, he missed what would have been a game-winning field goal in the first OT... Auburn fans everywhere (including yours truly) called for his head and eight years later remember him only as a choker, which might not be fair when you consider that he graduated as the program's all-time leading scorer. Perhaps his gravestone should read: "If Only I Didn't Have To Play LSU."

2007:  LSU 30, Auburn 24
aka "The Fourth Down Game" - 
LSU was widely considered the best team in the nation and was on its way to winning its second national title in five seasons. Auburn was a good team slugging through a mid-season slump, and was determined to reverse its course in the hostile environment of Baton Rouge. Against the expectations of all outsiders, Auburn hung tough and went ahead 24-23 in the fourth quarter, only to see LSU reach the Auburn 22 -- well within field goal range -- with eight seconds left and a timeout to burn.

Everyone who despises Les Miles's tendency to do foolish things and get away with it gnashed their teeth at what happened next. Rather than use the timeout to bring out the kicking team for a practically guaranteed win, he chose to call another offensive play and run the risk of the clock expiring if it didn't work -- except it did work, as Matt Flynn connected with Demetrius Boyd on a perfectly executed fade pass in the corner of the end zone.

2010:  Auburn 24, LSU 17
aka "The Heisman Game" - I have not heard anyone besides me refer to this as "the Heisman Game," but everyone knows it is what established Cam Newton as the can't-be-stopped front-runner for the trophy when he pulled off this run. Keep in mind that that is future NFL All-Pro Patrick Peterson he drags into the end zone at the end.

More importantly, this game solidified Auburn's standing as a national title contender, and as everyone knows they went on to win the national championship with a 14-0 record. As dazzling as Newton's touchdown was, Onterio McCalebb's winning score on a 70-yard explosion with five minutes remaining is remembered just as fondly. You can watch it here by fast-forwarding to the 2:05 mark.

On the face of things, LSU appears to be quite the better team this year. But the same was true last year and Auburn came within a whisker of winning despite fielding their worst team in six decades. Considering that, and considering this rivalry's history over the past generation, I would not be surprised to see a knockdown-dragout to the end. I think everyone should watch.

Note:  My closing paragraph in that post was hopeful yet muted. In the end, hope won out. Auburn lost the game after falling way behind in the first half, but their impressive second half rally proved to be the season's turning point and the game turned out to be the only one they lost. Auburn went on to win the SEC and play in the national championship game, which they lost by a fingertip when Florida State scored a last minute TD on a pass against a DB who was much shorter than the receiver.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn Equinox

Some thoughts about autumn on this, its first day:

I love stepping outside on that first morning that fall’s nip is in the air.

I love how changing leaves turn Appalachian mountainsides into fiery palettes of orange, red, and gold.

I love driving winding roads through those mountains, catching glimpse after glimpse of falling leaves as they twirl their way to the ground.

I love cold nights marked by the scent of campfire and the sound of wind in the trees.

I love watching my kids skip through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect one to bring home.

I love walking behind them as they trick-or-treat on Halloween night.

I love pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, and how it sets the ideal tone to start the Christmas season.

I love watching flocks of birds land in Florida at the end of their migration, while others keep flying to points further south.

And last but not least, I love football, especially college games at which the fans are loud and the bands are blaring...and most of all, college games in which Auburn is winning and the song you keep hearing begins with the line: War Eagle, fly down the field / ever to conquer, never to yield!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Random Cool Indian Facts

My September 8th post focused a lot on some of the bleak aspects of American Indian past and present. It also mentioned that I chose to be an Indian when I played cowboys and Indians as a kid, and that "today, at age 45, I retain a healthy appreciation for many things Indian."

In the interest of brightening that post up, here are some cool things about Indians and their history:

The rest of us go by John, Bob, Mary, and Jane, which is to say blah, blah, and whatever. Indians, on the other hand, have a time-honored tradition of infusing the stuff of Heaven and Earth into their names.

Even iconic names like Squanto, Sequoiah, and Geronimo sound dull next to the likes of Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Rain In The Face, Two Moons, Mangas Coloradas, and Iron Jacket.

Crazy Horse's family was chock full of classics all on its own, seeing as how his mother was Rattling Blanket Woman, his aunt was They Are Afraid Of Her, and his cousin was Touch The Clouds. Plus, one of his wives was Black Shawl and the love of his life was Black Buffalo Woman (whose husband, No Water, might have the most appropriate name of all since he was known for drinking alcohol).

And the tradition of great names is still going on: Just think of Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the half-Cheyenne U.S. Senator from Colorado, who retired in 2005.

Will Rogers
Of course, not all Indians have those kinds of names. Will Rogers was not only a proud Cherokee, he was also America's first mega-celebrity of the electronic/media era, parlaying early stints as a trick lassoist and vaudeville performer into a career that spanned radio, movies, newspapers, and magazines.

Rogers appeared in 69 movies (both silent films and "talkies," in which he often ad libbed) and his Sunday evening radio show was one of the highest rated in the country.

His wit and homespun wisdom transferred seamlessly to print, as he published both a weekly column and daily stories for the New York Times; an abundance of articles and columns for the Saturday Evening Post and McNaught Syndicate; and a number of humorous books with titles like The Illiterate Digest and Ether and Me, or "Just Relax."

Oh, and Rogers also popped up in government, albeit in largely ceremonial roles, serving one stint as goodwill ambassador to Mexico and another as mayor of Beverly Hills.

Despite all that, he remained a down home Oklahoma Cherokee to the core, tossing out such quips as "The only way you can beat the lawyers is to die with nothing" and "I don't tell jokes, I just watch the government and report the facts." Perhaps the coolest thing about him is that he made the Guinness Book of World Records for one of his roping feats, in which he tossed three lassos at one time with one of them going around the horse's neck, another around the rider, and the third underneath the horse where it snared all four legs.

The greatest testament to Will Rogers is that while he was open about and proud of his Indian heritage, he was respected equally by both the red man and white man, so much so that he was known as "the cowboy philosopher." When you see what his burial site in the foothills of Oklahoma's Ozarks looks like, there is no way you can doubt how important a figure he was then, and remains today.

The Seminoles
Most tribes are tied to ancestral geography, with the Comanche being synonymous with the southern Plains, the Miwok with the foggy forests of Northern California, the Chippewa with the Great Lakes, etc.

The same cannot be said for the Seminoles, however. Although everyone correctly associates them with Florida, that is not really where they are from.

In the late 1700's and early 1800's, when the white man started scoring seemingly unstoppable victories against Indians in the Southeast, members of multiple tribes (most notably the Creek) fled to the Florida peninsula where they banded together and resolved to fight back. To describe themselves, they adopted the name Seminole -- a mispronunciation of the Spanish cimarron, which means "runaway" or "wild one" depending on who's doing the translating.

Since they were founded and arranged to combat a specific enemy, they were not exclusionary about who they welcomed into their ranks. The most famous Seminole of all time, Osceola, was actually half-British and named Billy Powell at birth. They worked so closely with freed and runaway slaves that there is, even to this day, a band of people known as the Black Seminoles.

This melting pot tribe fought three wars against the United States between 1818 and 1858. Some of its members were eventually caught and marched off to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) but a sizable contingent was not, and its descendants remain in Florida all the way to the present. Today those descendants exist in two federally recognized entities, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (the difference being that the latter includes those who still speak Indian languages), and they proudly point to the fact that they belong to a people who were never defeated by the U.S. military.

...there are many other neat things to write about where Indians are concerned, but I'm gonna sign off for now. Have a good one.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflections on 9/11

There it stood. Fifty-two months earlier, when America first saw the steel cross standing amidst the ruins of the World Trade Center, I had assumed that rescue workers fashioned it from beams found in the wreckage. I had assumed that was how it came to be a fitting tribute to those who perished on September 11, 2001, and I still thought that when I looked upon the cross in person on a cold January afternoon in 2006. It was not until shortly afterward that I learned the truth: This portion of crossbeam had fallen, as-is, from the upper reaches of the collapsing North Tower and landed upright in the debris.

As I stood at Ground Zero, it was eerily silent despite the fact that America’s largest city was bustling all around me. A gaping hole occupied the spot where the Twin Towers once stood. I looked at the cross and thought I could walk to it and touch it in less than five seconds, were it not for the chain link fence encircling the grounds.

Instead I turned and walked south, to the corner of the property where Liberty Street intersects with Church Street. Looking back to the north, I shifted my gaze from the hole to the street and recalled the images of people leaping hundreds of feet to their bloody deaths on the very pavement which was now before my eyes. How hellishly hot must the temperatures have been, for human beings to choose crushing their bodies to death before knowing the towers were doomed to fall?

I thought of rescue workers proffering aid to others at the very instant more than 100 stories of steel and concrete came crashing down to extinguish their lives.

* * *

Like most Americans, my thoughts about New York over the years had not been wholly positive. The city held poignant symbols of freedom, and hence of the American dream, which was very good. It housed many of the engines of capitalism and birthed some of the best jazz ever played, and those things were also good. Yet it swaggered with arrogance, oozed with moral ambivalence, and was the home of socialites who lived off inherited wealth while attacking the very institutions that made it possible for others to achieve success – and those aspects of the Big Apple were not good.

New York may have been the ultimate ethnic melting pot, but it was shuttered and monochromatic when it came to intellectual matters. How could a city with eight million citizens not have a single conservative? I loved the Statue of Liberty but could never bring myself to root for the Yankees.

Nonetheless, standing at Ground Zero I thought of how all roads seem to meet in this place. Visiting the city in person, walking its sidewalks among its inhabitants, brings a welcome realization that it actually likes the fact it is in the United States. Yes, there was the raw irritation of seeing Che Guevara's mug plastered with praise on a giant window in Times Square – but then I heard the patrons of a subterranean sports bar praise our troops.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was still up two weeks after Christmas, and the walkway to it from Fifth Avenue was lined with tall figures of angels blowing trumpets. Here, Christmas had not been neutered by any transformation to something called Happy Holiday.

One block from Rockefeller Center are the twin spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, from whose pulpit the late Cardinal John O’Connor delivered many of the strongest sermons in American history. Though a prominent and uncompromising foe of abortion, he was revered in this city that is considered a hotbed of abortion-on-demand secularism. Standing across the street from Saint Patrick’s, it was hard not to notice the street sign showing that this block of Fifth Avenue is officially designated as Cardinal O’Connor Way.

In the East Village we slurped beers at McSorley’s, an old Irish pub where Abraham Lincoln once quaffed ale after delivering a speech. Small and cramped, it does not appear to have been enlarged or significantly upgraded since Lincoln’s time. When our party of four made it inside, a rough-looking worker with an Irish brogue showed us to a small, thin, wooden table and asked if we wanted “light or dark.” Two of us ordered the former, two the latter, and it must have been two-for-one because he returned carrying eight mugs of beer with no tray. He slammed them onto the table in one theatrical move, and we drank them without ever knowing their brand.

* * *
And finally, at Ground Zero, we were a very short walk from my favorite New York City nexus. Head one block east and you come to Broadway. Turn south for two more blocks and you come to Wall Street’s western terminus, directly across from Trinity Chapel.

We strode onto Trinity’s grounds and wandered through its aged cemetery until we found what we were searching: The grave of Alexander Hamilton, marked by a modest obelisk. At its base someone had laid a bouquet. Amazingly, right beside Hamilton’s grave is that of Robert Fulton, father of the steam engine.

Leaving Trinity, you cross Broadway and start down surprisingly nondescript Wall Street. Just one block onto it, with Trinity’s steeple looming behind you, you come to the site where George Washington took the oath of office as America’s first president.

And across the street from that site sits the New York Stock Exchange. We’ve all seen the images of frantic traders on the exchange floor, and we know the atmosphere inside must be noisy and stressful and chaotic. But viewed from outside, the exchange building is a picture of serenity that is dwarfed by much of its surroundings. American flags fly beneath its facade of Corinthian columns, giving it the appearance of a county courthouse from somewhere in the heartland.

So here, in less than two city blocks, you can walk in the footsteps of at least two Founding Fathers; visit one of their burial sites; visit the grave of one of history’s most prominent inventors; stand at the spot where our republic’s executive branch came into existence, and see the building where more wealth has been created than at any other spot on the planet.

Here, you can feel the heart of freedom beating strong.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

All about the name, continued

My July 27th post was about team names in sports, but in order to avoid sentencing brevity to death, I chose not to broach the topic of teams with American Indian Native American names.

Now I am here to give that topic its own post because it deserves one that spells out what would, I guess, be called an "alternative" viewpoint these days: Namely, that there is nothing wrong with teams having American Indian Native American names.

This shouldn't even be a topic worth mentioning, but unfortunately, legions of thought police and sanctimonious scolds are running roughshod over our land seeking to impose their psychobabbly nonsense on others and micromanage everyone else's affairs, and they insist on making this a topic... and America's media figures are too airheaded and noodle-spined to do anything but nod in agreement with the mantras, like an army of Pavlovian dogs drooling whenever they hear a bell... so here I stand, unafraid, ready to rebuke the rubbish by thrusting my shoulder against the tide.

(And aren't you glad I never exaggerate, act pompous, or use too many adjectives and adverbs?)

*     *     *     *     *

This is not exactly a new topic for me, so I'll start by quoting myself from 2014:

You always name your team something that will make fans puff out their chests with pride... many Native American high schools in this country use "Redskins" as the nickname for their sports teams... In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term ("Redskins") to be offensive... when the citizens of North Dakota voted in 2012 to make the University of North Dakota drop its long-time Fighting Sioux nickname, they did so against the wishes of the Spirit Lake Tribe...

To reiterate: When you name your team something, you choose a name that elevates it. Therefore, naming it after something honors that something.

Pretty much nobody in the United States thinks negatively of American Indian Native American culture, or of American Indian Native American people in general, and this has been the case for generations. For many of us, our perception of American Indians Native Americans was molded by this commercial that was released the year I was born, and which I remember seeing on the tube a few years later.

Nobody has ever rooted against the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians due to not liking American Indians Native Americans. A person who roots against the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians does so because they are playing against his own home team or because there is something he doesn't like about the cities of Atlanta or Cleveland.

On the other hand, ever since the beginning, if a kid wasn't from Atlanta or Cleveland yet rooted for the Braves or Indians, it was usually because those teams were named after American Indians Native Americans.

Ditto for the Washington Redskins. American kids still played cowboys and Indians when I was in my single digits and many of us (myself included) chose to be Indians. When the stuck-up Dallas Cowboys played against the Washington Redskins, we cheered on the Skins for a reason.

For a bunch of comfy upper crust white people who have never been on a reservation or ventured into the woods to suddenly act like they need fainting couches and smelling salts to cope with the supposed bigotry of homage-paying team names is... well... effing ridiculous.

And yes, a vastly disproportionate number of the people who act like that are comfy upper crust whites who have never been on a reservation or ventured into the woods.

Spend any time with real life American Indians Native Americans or read the writings of real life American Indians Native Americans, and not only will you find that most of them are perfectly fine with such team names, you will find that most of them refer to their actual selves as Indians, not Native Americans.

Plus, you will find that among those who do not call themselves Indians, a majority also don't use the effete leftist term "Native American." Instead they identify themselves simply by their tribe (Cherokee, Apache, etc.) or by terms such as "indigenous" or simply "native."

But I am starting to digress, so allow me to take a breather and get back on point.

And from here on out, I am going to stop using the strike-through effect (American Indian Native American) and just say Indian.

*     *     *     *     *

I already said that naming your team after something honors that something.

In the case of giving teams Indian names, the naming does more than just honor. Whether intentional or not, it often serves an educational purpose by keeping historical and cultural memory alive.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three of the last seven Stanley Cups. By naming themselves Blackhawks and making an Indian visage their logo, they salute the history of the Upper Midwest by drawing attention to Black Hawk himself. A leader of the Sauk Tribe who lived from 1767-1838 and co-wrote America's first Indian autobiography, he was an undeniably important figure; but I daresay that without the hockey team, he would have long since been forgotten by everybody except a handful of academics and the tiny number of people who are tribal historians.

And with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot, were it not for the Central Michigan Chippewas I might not have known there was a Chippewa Tribe.

Were it not for the Utah Utes, I might not have known there was a Ute Tribe.

When I was a senior at Auburn University, way back during the first George Bush's presidency, I listened to a graduate assistant professor in a public speaking class talk about how inappropriate it is for Florida State University to call its teams the Seminoles. This forced me to raise my hand and defend a rival school by pointing out that the actual Seminole Tribe, comprised of actual Seminoles, loves the affiliation and even helped FSU design its mascot and create its famous "tomahawk chop" chant. The educator in the room was uneducated (not a huge surprise) on the topic about which she was professing to students (though to her credit, she did thank me for edifying her and it was obvious she meant it).

Meanwhile, nobody says it's anti-Greek bigotry for Michigan State to call its teams the Spartans -- because it's not.

Nobody says it's anti-Turk bigotry for USC to call its teams the Trojans -- because it's not.

Nobody says it's anti-Roman/Italian bigotry for Ottawa's NHL team to be called the Senators -- because it's not.

And nobody says it's anti-Gaelic for Notre Dame to call its teams the Fighting Irish -- because it's not.

*     *     *     *     *

Although this post began by talking about the names of sports teams, the issue is much bigger than that.

The mindset that finds (actually, seeks) offense in team names is one that seeks (and thus finds) offense in every walk of life. What makes that mindset poisonous is that: 1) it is exclusionary when it comes to the groups on whose behalf it seeks/finds offense, and 2) it aims to metastasize itself throughout America's entire population until everyone conforms to its wishes.

Where does this all end if you follow the (ir)rationale to its (il)logical conclusion?

Should the city of Seattle be shamed into renaming itself because it took its name from the nineteenth century Suquamish leader? After all, metropolitan non-Indians have been so successful at "appropriating" Chief Seattle that nobody today has heard of him and everyone associates his name with pale-faced IT execs who sip lattes.

Think of all the other places in the USA that would need to be renamed if it's "offensive" or "insensitive" to name something after an Indian or Indian tribe. Say goodbye to Cheyenne, Wyoming; Pueblo, Colorado; Wichita, Kansas; Waco, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and both Pontiac and Point Huron, Michigan.

What if we expand the list to include not just places named after specific Indians and tribes, but also places that were named using words "appropriated" from Indian languages? In that case, all the bleeding hearts in New England should storm the grounds of Quinnipiac University and demand that it start calling itself...what? Mount Carmel Polytech?

And while New England's bleeding hearts do that, a large number of entertainment industry liberals should stop saying they live in Malibu and start demanding that their one-percenter enclave change its name to...what? Beach City?

Other places in need of new names would include Ohio, Manhattan, Milwaukee, Miami, Tampa, Chattanooga, Spokane, Topeka, Tuscon, the Potomac River, the Willamette River, and the Poconos Mountains.

Oh, and Chicago. Maybe instead of the Chicago Blackhawks, that hockey club should from now on be called the Lake City Birds of Prey?

And what should we do about the great state of Indiana? The word "Indiana" means "Land of the Indians," and surely there are some Indians saddened by the fact that the state bears that name when so few of its residents are Indians, right?

Come on, people. The ubiquity of Indian words and names in our country accomplishes more than anything else does when it comes to perpetuating Indian history's importance to American history.

*     *     *     *     *

I am all for cultural awareness and enlightenment. I am all for tolerance and understanding and acceptance, and for the resulting melting pot that is supposed to distinguish our mongrel nation from all the other nations of the world. However, knowledge is an integral part of all that and there seems to be very little knowledge among those who claim to champion "diversity."

As far as Indians are concerned, American culture should certainly include them -- they were here first, after all -- but we must not deceive ourselves and our offspring about what "Indian culture" entails, and therefore we must abandon the pretense that Indians were/are a bunch of calumet-smoking peaceniks and selfless environmental stewards.

Like I said, I always chose to be an Indian rather than a cowboy when I was a tyke, and today, at age 45, I retain a healthy appreciation for many things Indian -- but I am also aware that the basic idea of "Indian culture" is bogus because every tribe is different, and I know that the reality of many tribes is not at all what the makers of Dances With Wolves would have you believe.

Up until the white man's arrival (and continuing after his arrival) many tribes were in a state of constant warfare with one another, and not only were they "merely" violent to each other, they were, yes, savagely so. On some occasions whole tribes were murdered into extinction by opposing tribes.

As Michael Crichton put it in his seminal 2003 address to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, about distinguishing truth from propaganda: "The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety."

When the white man arrived on the scene, the rules he played by were not ones that Indians disagreed with or were unfamiliar with. He played by the same rules they had been playing by since time immemorial. It's just that he came with better technology and in greater numbers... This is not to say that his treatment of Indians in the 1800's was rightful by today's standards, it's just to counsel against believing that Indians would have been any more merciful had the shoe been on the other foot.

Then there is current reality. Every Elizabeth Warren voter in Massachusetts thinks that declaring his opposition to the name "Washington Redskins" puts him on the side of the angels... but does he know even one thing about the lives of Indians in America?

The rates of depravity on Indian reservations are much higher than the national averages, and when I say "depravity" I am referring specifically to child abuse, rape, and alcoholism.

According to Charon Asetoyer, a women's health advocate on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, a girl being raped there is "more expected than unexpected."

In the Navajo Nation, 329 rapes were reported in 2007, and five years later only 17 arrests had resulted from those reports (one-half of one percent).

Class 3 sex offenders are those deemed most likely to commit more sex crimes after getting out of prison. On a per capita basis, as reported last year in the New York Times, the Rosebud Sioux Reservation has almost ten times the number of Class 3 offenders living there as live in Boston, and almost twenty times more than Minneapolis. The Tohino O'odham Reservation has more than thirty times as many resident Class 3 offenders as Boston and more than sixty times as many as Minneapolis.

Such numbers point to a dangerous environment for women and children, and they are not exactly anomalies. It was reported in 2014 that 22 percent of Indian juveniles suffer from PTSD -- a rate on par with that of battle veterans returning from the Middle East.

In her recent book The New Trail of Tears, Naomi Schaefer Riley writes about a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Once per month, on a day scheduled to coincide with the arrival of federal welfare checks, the school literally locks the children inside for the day -- and although the children play games and such, the reason for the "lock in" is that when the checks arrive, people load up on booze and get blitzed and are considered a clear and present threat to abuse the kids.

Pine Ridge is an enormous reservation of almost 3,500 square miles that sprawls across the southwestern corner of South Dakota, practically abutting the state line with Nebraska. Life expectancy there is just 48 for males, 52 for females. Alcoholism has been an enormous problem for much of its 148-year history even though the sale of alcohol on the reservation itself has been prohibited for most of that time.

In a 2013 report, Jay Nordlinger mentioned the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, which sits just south of the reservation and is one of the places where Indians go to purchase what was once known as "firewater." At the time of Nordlinger's report, Whiteclay's population was a grand total of 12 -- not 12,000 or 1,200, just twelve -- yet it had four liquor stores. Those stores were selling a staggering 12,000 cans of beer per day, which is even more staggering when you consider that the population of the entire vast reservation is only about 28,000 (including children) and many of them live far from Whiteclay and get their booze elsewhere.

One can certainly make a case that the 12 white people of Whiteclay (or at least four of them) are "vultures of capitalism" who prey on the vulnerabilities of their minority neighbors. However, to make that case is to ignore the elephant in the room, for it is the Indians of Pine Ridge who choose to marinate in alcohol. No one forces them to.

And it is the Indians of Pine Ridge who choose to behave in such ways that teachers feel compelled to lock children in school to protect them from adults -- just like it is Indian men who choose to rape women and girls in such massive numbers on the Rosebud and Tohino O'odham reservations (and other reservations).

Of course, these dark realities do not reflect on every Indian and should not be considered the defining features of "Indian culture." They do, however, prove that "Indian culture" should not be unthinkingly flattered just so white people can pat themselves on the back for being "culturally sensitive."

*     *     *     *     *

Getting back on point: Those who feel offended by sports teams having Indian names are the kind of people whose understanding of Indians and Indian history is less than skin deep. For all practical purposes, it is limited to what they were told by their kindergarten teachers when they cut out those construction paper feathers to make those construction paper headdresses for Thanksgiving. It is limited to that because none of their other teachers through the years bothered to educate them.

The headline of this post says it's "all about the name," but considering how the post has taken on a life of its own, it's obvious that the headline is wrong. People getting offended to the point of lather about things as superficial as Indian team names, while possessing no knowledge of Indian lives and the real troubles which plague them, is a sign of intellectual and moral decay.

If people truly care about a subject, they endeavor to learn about it and then focus their energies on the heart and soul of whatever problems afflict it. Because "Indian team names" is not really a subject, but rather a shibboleth to signify that one cares about "Indian issues" writ large, it stands to reason that those who criticize the team names would also be heard talking about the need to combat alcoholism and misogyny and child abuse on reservations -- yet we almost never hear them mention those things.

And, it stands to reason that the "caring" people would be out front expressing concern about something much more elemental: The prospects for Indians to simply survive in the modern world. There are only three million of them in the United States, which makes them less than one percent of our population. This means there are 1.3 million more people living in just the Tampa Bay Area (where I'm from) than there are Indians living in the entire country. It also means that the number of illegal aliens estimated to be in the United States is almost four times the number of Indians.

Ponder those scant population figures, then think about how that population is fragmented across the Lower 48 states and Alaska, and about the fact that many parts of that population are plagued by the kinds of social pathologies noted above. If Indians were animals instead of people, the government would declare them an endangered species and high profile 501(c)(3)'s like Greenpeace would rally to save them.

But Indians get none of that love, concern, or even attention. Not from our government, not from our philanthropists, and certainly not from all those TV sports anchors who ostentatiously say "the Washington football team" instead of "the Washington Redskins."

Those white folks are blissfully unaware of actual human tragedies because they are too busy congratulating themselves for caring about fake ones. And that is not just effing ridiculous -- it's an effing disgrace.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

et ceteras

Friday doc dump
One of the most time-"honored" traditions in American politics is to elude bad publicity by releasing bad news on a Friday, when nobody is paying attention because everybody is entering the weekend and thinking about cookouts and sports and going out. This strategy works especially well during football season, because by the time Monday rolls around all that is being talked abut are the results of Saturday's college games and Sunday's NFL games.

Two days ago America's Democrat political class went back to that tradition by releasing the details of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton, including the 302 report of its interview with Her, on a Friday which was: 1) the start of Labor Day Weekend and 2) the eve of college football's colossal opening Saturday.

Among the revelations were that Clinton started the process of purging her emails shortly after Her use of a private server was disclosed by the New York Times; that the purging was going on at the same time She claimed "I want the public to see my emails"; that the purging was done with software so sophisticated that the FBI was unable to recover thousands of said emails; that the purging was done after Clinton learned of several government investigations into Benghazi; that the purged server included emails related to Benghazi that Clinton did not turn over to the State Department, despite having claimed that She turned "all" of them over; that while She was Secretary of State, She used 13 different mobile devices whose whereabouts she cannot account for; and that She told the FBI She was ignorant about classification markings -- despite being an Original Classifcation Authority and America's top diplomat, and thus being tasked with handling classified information on a daily basis.

Yeah, true Lefties and lockstep Democrats, keep telling yourselves She's qualified to be President of the United States and putative Leader of the Free World. You are dead wrong and disastrously so.

The pivot!
For ages now (or so it seems) we've been hearing pundits and wishfully thinking lackeys speculate about an upcoming "pivot" by Donald Trump. By which they mean a moment when Trump will become less incontinent in his rhetoric and start showing knowledge and smarts when talking about issues and policies.

Well, a pivot took place on Wednesday but it's not quite the pivot those pundits and lackeys were thinking about. Trump basically reversed his entire stance on illegal immigration -- which, to be sure, was a step in the right direction -- but in so doing he proved that he has been conning the masses all along.

Illegal immigration, more than anything, was Trump's signature issue and the only one about which he had ever been clear when speaking. But his Wednesday speech removed him from his hawkish perch and placed him pretty much in the same spot where Obama is on the issue, which is presumably pretty much the same spot where his pal Hillary Clinton is on the issue.

So now, the GOP's presidential nominee is indistinguishable from run-of-the-mill Democrats when it comes to illegal immigration... indistinguishable from pork barrel Dems when it comes to increasing the deficit and expanding the nanny state... indistinguishable from disingenuous libs when it comes to abortion (he blandly says "I'm pro-life" while heaping praise on Planned Parenthood)... a complete ignoramus on foreign policy (he thinks Saddam Hussein was opposed to terrorism, thinks of Putin as a bosom buddy, and seems unaware that Russia has invaded Ukraine)... has yet to exhibit one single bit of evidence that he knows anything about the Constitution or separation of powers... and has yet to do a single thing to show that he has anything but contempt for free speech (given his penchant for using lawsuits to threaten/silence his critics) or for property rights (given his well-documented love of using eminent domain to steal others' homes).

Yeah, faux righties and lockstep Republicans, keep telling yourselves that he's qualified to be President of the United States and putative Leader of the Free World. You are dead wrong and disastrously so.

About illegal immigration...
...my stance is pretty straightforward:

As we encounter illegals, deport them automatically. No differentiation between whether they have committed crimes while here; how long they've been here; whether they have relatives here; or anything. Just send them back whence they came, and if they do have relatives here, go pick those relatives up and send them back too (if they too are illegal).

Eliminate any and all federal appropriations of funds and non-financial aid to any and all sanctuary cities in these United States, except for disaster relief.

However, a task force dedicated solely to locating and arresting illegals would be a foolish waste of resources, a foolish waste of law enforcement time and energy. Don't even consider it. The feds have bigger fish to fry.

We can talk about a wall, or about walls in specific areas. They would work. The one south of San Diego has worked extremely well. But I'm not sold that they are necessary and I know they're not foolproof (ever heard of tunnels?) and I don't believe that one across the entire border is warranted. 

And with that...
I'm done opining for now. Have a fun and safe Labor Day, my friends.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kickoff Time

Tropical Storm Hermine is hurling rain bands at my house as I type this... each of our two leading presidential candidates are two-bit charlatans who spend their time dividing the country and demonstrating no comprehension of what national security is all about... and everyone is less disturbed  by advancing jihad than they are by Colin Kaepernick... but hey, college football starts this weekend!

Yeah, yeah, I know a couple middling games have already been played, but we all know that the "real" opening weekend is still in front of us, and I'm talking about Saturday, not tonight and tomorrow.

Because college football unites us (even as it divides us, and even as it makes us think that some of our colleagues with questionable college loyalties might have an evil side to them) it feels appropriate to republish my post from eight years ago:

College football finally returns this week, and in the coming month campuses will come alive all over the land. From Baton Rouge to Boulder and Clemson to Corvallis and Morgantown to Madison, alumni will return in their RV’s and the aroma of beer and beef will waft through their tailgate parties.

There is nothing on earth like college football. Because a single loss can take you out of the running for the national title and maybe even your conference title, college football has the most important regular season in all of American sports.

It is the only sport in which you can win every game but one, yet the whole year is remembered in a bad light because the one loss came against your archrival. Likewise, it is the only sport in which a season-ending win against your archrival can turn an otherwise bad year into one worth celebrating.

In different corners of America, longtime rivals play for chintzy but endearing objects: Minnesota and Michigan for the Little Brown Jug, Purdue and Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket, Tennessee and Kentucky for the Beer Barrel.

Alumni from different schools argue that not only does their alma matter have the best football team on any given Saturday, but that every aspect of their alma matter is better than every aspect of every other school in America.

It is obvious that Auburn’s “War Eagle” is the greatest fight song ever played. Yet Michigan grads will tell you that no song is as stirring as “The Victors.”

It is obvious that the sweeping angles of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium make it the best place on earth to watch a football game. Yet Arizona State grads will tell you there’s no better place than the upper deck of Sun Devil Stadium at sundown, from which you can watch a game and see the desert turn to fire at the same time.

And it is obvious that Auburn-Alabama is the most heated rivalry in the world. Yet, inexplicably, some will say that title belongs to Michigan-Ohio State or Texas-Oklahoma or Army-Navy.

Meanwhile, Tennessee grads claim that the greatest pre-game tradition in America is the procession of their Vol Navy, when alumni arrive by boats on the Tennessee River.

And Wisconsin grads claim that the greatest post-game tradition is their Fifth Quarter, when the band stays in the stadium to play and the fans stay in the stadium to party, regardless of who won.

As someone who was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area, I watch Bucs games while feeling my stomach boil with intensity, but I have little interest in spending hours of my life watching other professional games. On the other hand, as someone who graduated from Auburn, I watch Auburn games while feeling heart-stopping anxiety – and I also watch any other college game that’s on TV when Auburn is not. I will stay up into the wee hours of the morning to see Boise State vs. Hawaii and enjoy every minute of it.

College football fans do things like that. And they wonder about all kinds of topics that relate to the sport but not to their school, such as: Will Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno end the year with more career victories? Will Ohio State make it to the national championship game yet again, only to get embarrassed yet again? Will Notre Dame continue its downward spiral that enables millions of Americans to revel in schadenfreude?

No other sport can match college football’s blend of pageantry, passion, and season-long drama. So cue the marching bands, let the cheerleaders adorn our televisions, and let us all argue about who’s number one. I am ready.

Note: It's interesting to re-read this post and think about what has changed. Bowden and Paterno are no longer coaching... Paterno is no longer even walking the Earth, and his once stainless reputation has been shredded by the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal... Ohio State has, yes, made it to the national championship; but far from getting embarrassed, the Buckeyes won it resoundingly... the BCS has given way to playoffs... a lot happens as time passes, my friends.