But Joe, I said, you’re ten years dead

I don’t know anything about this Cliven Bundy versus the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fight, expect what I read in the pixels and we all know the media is controlled by socialist Muslims, right?

The issues at hand seem to be a) Mr. Bundy has been grazing his cattle on government land for the past 21 years without paying the fees that one who engages in such a practice is obligated to pay (he now owes around a million dollars) and b) that Mr. Bundy has also moved some cattle into an area that is restricted from grazing to protect a species of desert tortoise.

For his part, Mr. Bundy says the land in question is rightfully his, has been used (not owned, used) by his family since before the formation of the BLM and that his use of the land trumps public ownership.  He’s had his day in court, several of them, and lost every time.  Now he says he doesn’t recognize the existence of the US government.  His notions are not unique in his part of the country  – where many seem to be all too happy to take whatever the government will provide and give nothing themselves.  Various local and state officials and leaders in the region have expressed sympathy for Mr. Bundy’s point of view.  I think if we’re going to get into this whole “possession” question, we ought to invite representatives from the Navaho and Apache nations to give their thoughts on the subject.  Seems only fair.
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“Let’s See Some Biceps, Biafra!”

A few months ago, I noted in this space that I’d resumed my long-deferred running career on a treadmill in the basement of the local YMCA. It didn’t last. In my head, I might still be a 16-year-old miler, but my knees and ankles somehow slipped away to middle age without telling me.

Since this exercise in exercise was a joint project with Lejla – and she’s been more faithful to the gym than I, with the results to prove it – I’m still working out, but now resigned to the stationary bicycle, an object I’d once condemned and the (non) vehicle of the old and infirm. So be it.

I still have the iPod and earbuds and try no less hard to overdo it on the bike as I did on the treadmill. (If this winter ever ends, I’ll take it to the streets.) I set a caloric goal and try to reach it faster each time. (No, I’m not telling you what it is. If you wanna know, you’ll just have to get on the adjacent bike and peek.) Continue reading »

How to Get a Speeding Ticket (or Not)

Now that spring is here (or not) and road conditions are improving (or not), I have some advice – wrought from long, sometimes bitter experience – on dealing with traffic tickets.

First, when a police officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” never say yes.  That’s a legal admission of guilt.  She or he will tell you how fast you were going and s/he’s probably right.  So admit nothing

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, but be genial about it. (“Gee, I guess I didn’t realize I was going that fast…”)

Do not tell the officer you pay her/his salary.  One trooper I knew used to respond, “I pay my own salary,” which was just true enough to end that topic of conversation.

Do not say, “Yeah, well, I guess you have a quota to fill.”  The invariable response to this is, “No, I get to write as many as I like.”  This is not true, but then it’s legal for police to lie to you.  The New York State police – with which I was familiar as a reporter and an outfit with high standards – tracked the number of tickets a trooper wrote the first six months out of the academy and that became said trooper’s average for his/her career.  If the monthly average deviated substantially from that average, it was assumed something odd was happening and supervisors would become involved.  Probably worth assuming the same is true for other police agencies.
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Too Much or Not Enough?

I didn’t really have time to listen Tuesday evening when I flipped on the video of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) speech on the dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee (she’s the chair) and the Central Intelligence Agency, but once I started listening, I couldn’t stop.

I’m not a fan of Sen. Feinstein, I think she’s been far too defending of various intelligence agencies as they trammel civil liberties at home and worse abroad.  That said, I believe her when she says the CIA illegally interfered with her committee’s business and I agree that it’s a huge deal.  Again the despairing thought, “This is happening, in my country.”

What’s most depressing is not that the CIA is populated by thugs.  I expect that.  It’s not that politicians are shocked when the same people they allow to tamper with our liberties start to mess with theirs; I expect that, too.  It’s the dense fog emanating from the west wing of the White House.  President Obama’s spokesoids said he’s “staying out” of this feud, until McClatchy newspapers reported that the administration is also undermining the work of the Senate committee by withholding documents.  As with my other low expectations, I knew Mr. Obama’s deeds would fall short of his rhetoric.  I just didn’t expect it to fall this far short.
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Godwin’s Scale

Hillary Clinton, frantically flailing to keep her brand fresh until 2016, this week compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler and then, having secured the requisite attention, “clarified” her remark, saying she wasn’t comparing Mr. Putin to Mr. Hitler.  Got that?

You might say Ms. Clinton was invoking Godwin’s Law, which states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”  Which is to say, sooner or later, someone’s gonna call someone else “Hitler” or “Nazi.”

Ms. Clinton would no doubt argue that her comment was not made online and thus doesn’t count (although I and millions of others read it online).  Perhaps we have different definitions of “is.”

Perhaps it’s also wrong to single out Ms. Clinton.  She was just the first US politician over the starting line.  As the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor points out, Lyndon Johnson compared the North Vietnamese to Hitler, former Secretary of State George Schultz compared Nicaragua to Nazi Germany, as did George HW Bush with Iraq.  Bill Clinton put Serbia and Nazi Germany in the same category, former Defense secretary Don Rumsfeld compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler and Barack Obama kinda, sorta did it in regard to Syria.
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Welcome to America

My daughter Lejla became a citizen Monday.  The ceremony was at the federal courthouse downtown; she joined 29 other immigrants from 17 nations in taking the oath of citizenship.

(Lejla was born in Switzerland

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, the child of Bosnian and Croat refugees.  Since Switzerland neither allows refugees to stay very long nor grants citizenship to people born on its soil unless they also live there 12 years, she was a citizen of no nation until Monday.  This cost me a fair amount of sleep through the years, since getting caught in teen high jinks might have meant her friends would be picked up at the police station while she might have gone into the limbo of a Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail for years.  It happens.)

Huge backup at the security checkpoint as the prospective Americans and their families crowded the lobby.  Upstairs the big courtroom was packed, small children playing peek-a-boo with strangers, smartphones, iPads and even a few actual cameras clicking away.

The citizens-to-be all had to check in with a clerk and present their paperwork before the ceremony could begin.  One thing the clerk clearly did not check was the pronunciation of their names.
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Now or Never

Tuesday night I was in a small club downtown (such as it is in Burlington), listening to Luray, an indie-folk band from the DC area.  (Disclosure: I don’t have to disclose anything, this ain’t the Associated Press.)

I missed the top of the set and so found myself jammed next to coat rack in the back of the room.  Small room, even in a small town, maybe 30 people but crowded enough to feel full.

Two women at the front of the bandstand; banjo, keyboard and harmony, three guys – guitar, upright bass and drums – behind.  All in their mid-30s, but still clearly new to the road.  Looked like they’d had other lives, always keeping that instrument handy, playing out just enough, saying, “Y’know some day we really oughta….”  Now or never.

A break between songs.  Nervous banter with the audience.  Still in the mode of playing out at a bar, not yet developed into a show one takes from town to town.  Two tables leave.  Luray followed GuaGua, popular local funk fusion.  Perhaps now they were losing some of the holdovers.  General shuffling of feet, improving one’s real estate.  I snagged a stool at the end of the bar. Continue reading »