Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jewels from Giuliani

Quick, send in the clowns,
Don’t bother they’re here.
— Stephen Sondheim, Send in the clowns

We are in Rudolph Giuliani’s debt. He has given Republican wannabe- presidents something of substance to discuss and has introduced a gentle note into the campaign-love. Until Rudy came along many of the candidates seemed to have no idea what to say other than to attack the Affordable Care Act which they all agree is dreadful because it gives health care to millions of Americans who had theretofore been unable to afford it. Although members of Congress and prospective republican candidates do not tire of raising the issue, the average voter is more than tired of hearing about it. After all, when Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted 54 times to repeal the law knowing the votes would have no effect, for a man hoping to become president to mimic their words suggest he is pretty much out of ideas. Happily, Rudolph has gotten them off the hook. And instead of hate and calumny Rudy has made the present conversation to be all about love. Since it is Rudy who changed the conversation a word about who he is is in order.

Rudolph Giuliani is a former mayor of New York City and a former wannabe himself. He has a deep love of the United States of America. Most recently he made news when he took New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to task for ending that practice of which all who deeply love this country were so proud-inserting spies inside Muslim congregations during worship services. The spies did not call themselves spies even though that is what they were. They were members of New York’s finest, inconspicuously dressed so as not to alarm the people they were spying on. Mr. Giuliani proudly told an interviewer that it was he who, as mayor, increased the number of police in the mosques because, as he explained, “ the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 was organized in a mosque.” By putting more police in the mosques he was taking steps to deter further acts of terrorism. 9/11 proved the success of Rudy’s approach.

In that same interview Rudy’s understanding of the constitution and the right to privacy it bestows on its citizens was demonstrated when he said: “What rabbi, what priest would care if there were police in their service? What are they saying in the service that they should be concerned about?” He could ask that question of anyone who has been complaining about the fact that the government has been eavesdropping on its citizens unbeknownst to them. Unless they are plotting evil, Rudy suggests, they have nothing to fear from such activities. Rudy also has an uncanny ability to judge other people.

In a 2012 iinterview with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow he said of Vice president Biden: “I think the vice president . . . has become a laugh line on late night television. . . .”this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright . . .. Actually he’s just not very smart.” To his observations about Biden he has now added his thoughts about the president.

At an event for Wisconsin’s college-drop-out governor, Scott Walker, Rudy said: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.” In a non sequitur he went on to say: “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. “ Why anyone would love Rudy is certainly a question for the ages and why anyone should love a bunch of wealthy know nothings gathered to celebrate ignorance and raise money for their cause is also a mystery.

Scott Walker who hopes to be the next president seized the “love”moment. Asked about Rudy’s comments he declined to praise or criticize but courageously said: “I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people-Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between-who love this country.” Those words gave lots of listeners goose bumps because they were both profound and heart felt. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the “gist” of Rudy’s nonsense was true and he would not condemn the mayor for his words. Darrell Issa, whose less than savory background before becoming a member of Congress has been well documented, did not want to be left out of the discussion. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” he proved a skilled wordsmith pointing out that Rudy said he “didn’t believe” that the president loves America rather than stating as fact that the president doesn’t love America.

Although most of us will spend little time wondering about Mr. Obama’s love of country, there is one thing we will surely be wondering about for the next 18 months. Which of the Republican clowns hoping to be the next Republican candidate for president will actually be selected by the party of Lincoln.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

More Moore

Old times there are not forgotten.

— Dixie, Old American Folk Song

Alabama is back, represented by Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of its Supreme Court and by the W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama. Roy comes first.

In 2000 Roy was campaigning to become the Chief Justice. That was the year the Vermont legislature passed legislation approving gay unions. Campaigning a few days before the Alabama June primary election was to take place, Judge Moore commented on the Vermont law saying the next logical step was for a law to be passed that would allow unions between “two men and four women” or between “a sheep and a man.” He was, of course, speaking in jest. Musing further he said: “Let me ask you this. Are you going to pay your tax money to support a man and a sheep on welfare? Hmmmm?” Judge Moore won the primary and then the general election and became the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. As Chief Justice he had other opportunities to express himself on the evils of homosexuality. In a custody battle involving a lesbian mother he said that homosexuality is “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Homosexuals, he went on, are “presumptively unfit to have custody of minor children.”

While serving as Chief Justice, Roy commissioned a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments and had it installed in the central rotunda of the State Judicial Building. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling ordering removal of the monument and when the Chief Justice refused, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Roy from office and the monument was removed from the rotunda. The monument is still gone. Elected again in 2012, Roy Moore is again serving as Chief Justice and is again asserting himself in opposition to a federal court.

In late January 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Callie V. Granade ordered Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, a ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to postpone. Accordingly, probate judges were required by the federal court order to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Chief Justice Moore ordered the probate judges to ignore the federal court’s order and to decline to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. As of this writing 51 probate judges have elected to follow the federal court’s order and 17 others have elected to follow Roy’s order. On February 13, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court, by a 6-2 ruling, acted on an emergency petition filed by the Liberty Counsel and two other groups opposed to same-sex marriage. It ordered probate judges who were issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples to respond to the Liberty Counsel’s petition that seeks an order telling probate judges to cease and desist their issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples. The Alabama Supreme Court’s response suggests that six members of the Alabama Supreme Court believe the state judges have the right to ignore orders from a federal court. All briefs will have been filed by February 20 and the Alabama Supreme Court should have the opportunity to issue an opinion shortly thereafter. No one is taking any bets on the outcome.

Meanwhile, out in the country the W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama, is in the news. W.F. Burns is, for good reason, concerned about the safety of its students. Unlike many schools that have promoted the idea that teachers should be permitted to carry firearms into the classroom in order to shoot possible assailants, W. F. Burns has decided to implement an idea for school safety already used in some other school districts hoping to enhance student safety.

School officials sent a letter home to all parents asking that they give their children canned goods to bring to school. The canned goods are not for eating (although they’ll be given to the needy at the end of the school year) but are instead an enhancement to procedures already in place to deal with intruders. According to the letter sent to parents: “The procedure will be the same as we have done in the past with the addition of arming our students with a canned food item. We realize at first this may seem odd, however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off-guard. The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until the police arrive. The canned food item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves and will make them feel secure in case an intruder enters their classroom. . . . We hope the canned food items will never be used or needed, but it is best to be prepared.”

There is a certain symmetry to the Alabama Supreme Court’s action and the school’s action. Throwing a can of peas at an intruder armed with an automatic weapon makes as much sense as the Alabama Supreme Court trying to decide whether a federal court’s orders have to be followed by state judges. The introduction of canned peas into the classroom, however, does no damage to the rule of law in Alabama. That is more than can be said for the Alabama Supreme Court’s actions.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sex and Interior Decorating

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three. . .
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
— Philip Larkin, Annus Mirabilis [1974]

I do not ordinarily cover the newest fads. This week, however, I am making an exception because the newest fads are inspired by a movie that will be released the day before Valentine’s Day and the timing of this column is such that readers who are inspired by it can rush off to their nearest Target stores and present their purchases to their Valentines on the day itself.

The movie that is being released is called “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Just as Erica Jong’s erotic novel of several years back called “Fear of Flying” had nothing to do with phobias and airplanes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” does not attempt to instruct the interior decorator on the interesting effects that can be achieved by taking advantage of the subtle differences between different shades of grey or explaining why the chandelier looks better if it is not hung over the center of the table. Fifty Shades of Grey is a trilogy and is all about sex. The author, E.L. James (not her real name) can explain why she sought to mislead those who bought the books hoping to get tips on interior decorating. Those going to the movie may get new ideas about things of considerable interest to them but none of them will improve the décor around the house.

The movie (whose advent has been eagerly awaited by members of both sexes although reportedly, more by the fair sex than the other one) tells a story of a young woman’s introduction into the world of sexual bondage. I’ll not say more about that since (a) I’ve not seen the movie nor read the books and (b) even if I had, I’d not want to spoil the movie for my readers or reduce the number of viewers it would have attracted had I not written a spoiler. Many viewers will find the sorts of things that go on in the movie intriguing and will wonder where the artifacts that were used by the actors to enhance the activities displayed on the silver screen can be obtained. A quick search of the Internet discloses that a company known as “Lovehoney” is, as its website proclaims “The Official Pleasure Collection.” E.L. James is quoted on the home page of Lovehoney as saying: “I’m so excited that the toys I described in the books have come to life.” She is, of course, not speaking literally since none of the toys being sold have a life of any kind so long as they sit on the shelf. But readers may wonder how they can help bring the toys to life. Herewith the answer.

Although Lovehoney is the “go to” source for the toys, there are some who will be reluctant to order those toys on line because of fears their order may be disclosed in unexpected places on the internet. For them the destination store will be a Target store near their homes even though the product selection may be more limited than what is available from Lovehoney’s website. The fact that the selection is limited is offset by the fact that the buyer can acquire the sought after items more discretely than may be possible over the Internet. In one Target store, for example, the Lovehoney items were put on display right next to the Captain America toothbrushes. That is helpful to the sensitive type who, when buying a Lovehoney product can, if another shopper is standing nearby, pretend to be interested in the Captain America toothbrushes rather than the Lovehoney product.

It is impossible in a column such as this, to describe all the products that can be found on Lovehoney’s website and, to a lesser extent, at your local Target store. A few of them do, however, deserve mention. Among them are“his and hers No Peeking Soft Twin Blindfolds” for $14.95, and “Yours and Mine Vibrating Silicone Love Ring” that also costs $14.95 (and almost certainly comes with instructions.) For $12.95 a “Tease Feather Tickler” can be purchased and for another $11.99 a “Spanking Ruler.” (If you are shopping at Target that can probably be found in the school supplies section as well.) For the partner of the purchaser of the ruler, for $16.99 a “Soothe Me After Spanking Cream” can be purchased.

There is one benefit to shopping on line rather than at Target. According to the Lovehoney website, anyone spending $60 on “The Official Pleasure Collection” gets a FREE Charlie Tango. Not everyone will know what to do with a Charlie Tango but I am sure it will come with a book of instructions. The lucky person who gets this bonus should read the book before bringing Charlie to the evening’s activities. Have fun.

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