Chris Hamilton is a writer trying to make the next step, to go from pretty good to freaking outstanding. He's devoting himself to doing the work and immersing himself in writery pursuit. He also hasn't quite mastered this whole Powerball thing, and still has a pesky addiction to food, clothing, and shelter, so he has to work, too. Blech.
According to a report from Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations that focuses on poverty reduction, in the ten months since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the net worth of the ten richest people in the world has increased by $540 billion. Meanwhile, they project that it could take more than a decade to reduce the number of people living poverty to pre-pandemic levels.
The report indicates that unless rising inequality is address, half a billion more people could be living on less than $5.50 a day or less in 2030, ten years after the start off the pandemic.
The report recommends a temporary wealth tax on profits made by the 32 most corporations and other super-rich entities and people. Oxfam says the half-trillion dollars the ten richest have made would, if taken from them, pay for Covid vaccination for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty cause by the pandemic.
You don’t have to be Karl Marx to shake your head at those statistics. The fact is, you’re in much better position to weather or thrive during a crisis like this than you are if you’re already financially stressed.
If you’re talking about people living on $5.50 per day, you’re not talking about welfare queens or that guy who used to use food stamps to buy food you couldn’t afford in spite of working a couple jobs. These are severely poor people who struggled to survive to begin with.
The Oxfam recommendations extend beyond any national boundaries and would require an international organization with the ability to override national taxation rules. It wouldn’t be a matter of a one-time levy. Power tends to perpetuate itself. And if we could make things a little better by unilaterally taking from billionaires, just think of how much we good we could do if we did the same to millionaires, or even to the 25% most wealthy in the world (which includes you).To set something like that up in an equitable manner that protects national sovereignty and includes checks and balances would take forever. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the other eight aren’t likely to voluntarily give up everything they’ve made in the past year and more. And no country with wealth is likely to unilaterally cede tax policy to a worldwide body that hasn’t been created and has no rules. (Yes, I know there’s the UN, but it doesn’t have the right to tax and has structural problems of its own.)
There’s more to this than just saying it has to be done and done now. How do you do it? Who has the authority, and how do you stop them from seizing vast tracts of private property or businesses?
I realize people are dying, but if you don’t answer those questions, even more people are likely to die.
In short, I don’t have the answers, beyond “this isn’t working and how do we change it?” It starts with stepping away from the normal accusations we heave at each other and a realization that to solve the problem we have to find a workable way to fund the necessary work, add controls to reduce corruption, and protect the interests of the people who’d otherwise be seen as an infinite checkbook.
If we don’t get past competing shouting about communism and murderous greed, nothing will be done. (But everyone will feel good about defending their version of mortal certainty.)
I lived in Washington during the end of their Super Bowl era. My hatred of the team crystallized when the morning guys on WMAL were talking about how the Super Bowl would be in Minneapolis and just their luck, they’d probably go to that Super Bowl instead of one in a nice place.
If they play it Nome, Alaska when it’s sixty below, it’s still the Super Bowl. Most fans don’t get the opportunity to bitch about the venue.
The Detroit Lions have never been to the Super Bowl. Their last NFL championship came before the AFL (now the AFC) was born. The Cleveland Browns have never been either. The last time the Jets–my team–was there, Lyndon Johnson was in his last days as President.
Regardless of the sport, winning or even playing for a championship is a rare and wonderful thing. As much as fans of whoever happens to be good right now might claim otherwise, it’s not a birthright. Tommy Lasorda was probably disappointed that the Big Dodger in the Sky was largely ambivalent about who wins the World Series.
He loves all his teams equally (though he probably loves the Jets less equally than the others).
So the Bucs are playing in their second Super Bowl. Tom Brady is playing in his tenth Super Bowl–something that’s never happened before.
And Bucs fans are probably going to be insufferable about it until the game–and until Super Bowl LVI (56), if they win.
Packers fans are irritated. They’re complain about a pass interference call late in the game that helped the Bucs keep the ball until the clock ran out.
But if you lost because of one call, you should’ve lost. Aaron Rodgers should’ve run instead of passing on third down. And the Packers should’ve gone for it instead of kicking the field goal. And they shouldn’t have purposely committed encroachment to give the Bucs a first down.
The Packers have been there recently (ten years ago). They have four Lombardi trophies. I’m not crying very hard for them.
So it’s a day to be happy for Bucs fans, to wish them to enjoy the home Super Bowl. (For the record, Rams played in Pasadena and the 49ers played at Stanford, but no one has ever ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium.)
In six months, Tampa-area teams will have played in the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup Finals. They won the cup.
Some will complain that this happened in a pandemic year, so they didn’t get the full championship experience. A championship’s a championship, regardless of the year.
It was 2002 when the Bucs last won the Super Bowl. There’s been a lot of losing since then. Joe Garagiola once said losing hurts more than winning feels good.
I don’t agree. Losing hurts, but not even getting there creates a longing–an itch you can never scratch. And winning is incredible.
A lot changes in 19 years, but the feeling of winning never changes.
After September 11, people of the Islamic faith were nervous. Fringe elements of that faith had launched an attack that killed 3000 Americans and destroyed a worldwide symbol of this country. This attack came on top of other smaller attacks on American interests. Islamist leaders openly called for the end of this country and death for its leaders and anyone else who didn’t hold to their view of the world.
Just three weeks ago, the leader of the Republican Party goaded party members to keep him enthroned as the leader of the country. Those party members invaded and ransacked the Capitol building–a symbol of American freedom. They tried to find and publicly kill elected leaders who disagreed. While this happened, other elected members were supporting the position that our election should be overturned and Donald Trump installed as President.
One member seemed to provide intelligence on where the Speaker of the House was so the group whose members built a gallows could find her.
This happened just a few weeks after the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap the duly-elected Governor of Michigan, try her for treason in a non-sanctioned court, and presumably execute her.
The Islamist terrorists toppled two buildings. The insurrectionists, with the support of a large swath of the Republican party, tried to topple our entire system of government. Their public executions would be fair warning of what happened to any who opposed them going forward.
If Islamists had dared such a brazen overthrow, no one would be speaking of unity.
Like it or not, every member of the Republican party is subject to the same suspicions Muslims felt after September 11. Members of our party came perilously close to ending the United States as a republic.
As the FBI rounds up the insurrectionists, they’re finding people you might expect–that guy who proudly waved a Trump flag the size of Montana in his yard. But they’re also finding that guy at church who seemed pleasant enough. The guy you talked to at the bar as he served you drinks way back in 2019. That mom you thought was nice at the PTA meeting.
Those who sat traumatized on January 6 don’t know which ones of us supported people who would potentially kill them for political opposition.
If Republicans want unity, it’s up to us to restore some level of trust. Our neighbors probably aren’t sure about us right now–and they have cause.
It’s up to us to let them know most of us still believe in free elections. It’s up to us to vocally oppose anyone who would round up political opposition to give them a “fair trial” followed by a first-class hanging. It’s up to use to disown every single member of our party who encouraged this attempted coup.
It’s up to us to let them know we aren’t in league with people who want them dead.
If you’re a Republican and you don’t do those things, they’re entitled to distrust and visceral dislike–the kind of dislike that turns to hatred.
It’s our side that put this country on the cliff, teetering over oblivion. Our side has an obligation to work hard at restoring the unity we crave.
We still get to have principles. We still get to disagree. But we have an absolute obligation for civility and, more important, for justice.
Henry Aaron, who passed away yesterday at the age of 86, has always been an American civil rights icon to me.
When I was a kid, Aaron and Willie Mays were chasing Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs. As much as I rooted for Mays, Aaron was the one who’d catch, then pass Ruth.
He finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs. In 1974, the Braves opened in Cincinnati, which resulted in a brawl when the Braves threatened to sit him for that series so he could set the record at home. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn required him to play at least two games and he hit home run 714 there. Kuhn attended the opening day game, where Aaron hit number 714 to tie the recoord.
In the months leading up to all this, Aaron spoke of the pressure of it all, something I didn’t understand. He had the perfect job and he was good at it.
A book I read later that year talked about the racism, and about the threats to his life–all for hitting home runs. Except it wasn’t the home runs, it was his skin color. To ten-year-old Chris, it seemed ridiculous. Skin color didn’t matter. Home runs are home runs. If he hit more than Ruth, he hit more than Ruth.
Though I’ve been far from perfect with regard to race, Aaron’s experiences stayed with me as I grew. Skin color always seemed a stupid thing to be material in judging a person’s worth. It seemed as irrelevant as eye color or hair color.
And yet it was relevant in the eyes of far too many people.
In a 1973 interview with the New York Daily News, Aaron said, “If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me. But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are.”
The book showed a picture of bags filled with hate mail, as well as some of the letters he got.
Aaron was no stranger to racial hatred. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He talked of his mother telling him to hide under the bed when the KKK marched down the street. After, he could come out and go play again. Imagine that being part of your daily life.
He briefly played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues in 1952 before the then Boston Braves signed him and sent him to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was 19 the year he was sent to Jacksonville of the class A Sally League. Then, after playing 12 seasons with the team in Milwaukee, the Braves moved to Atlanta. At the time, baseball free agency didn’t exist. Aaron couldn’t leave the Braves on his own and didn’t have a lot of leverage to force a trade. And the south wasn’t a friendly place at the time.
The night he broke the record, April 8, 1974, his bodyguard, an Atlanta police officer named Calvin Wardlaw, was in the stands and armed. Snipers stood ready on the roof of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Aaron received so much hate mail, so many threats, that his children had bodyguards.
Bowie Kuhn, who’d attended one of the games in Cincinnati, didn’t attend the game in Atlanta, citing a previous engagement. He was the commissioner of baseball. It was his job to be there. His action was rightfully seen as a snub.
Al Downing, the pitcher whos started for the opposing Los Angeles Dodgers that night, walked Aaron his first time up, resulting in an avalanche of boos. His second time up, he hit a ball deep to left field. Dodgers left fielder Bill Buckner (yes, that Bill Buckner) climbed the wall trying to rob him of the home run, but to no avail. Relief pitcher Tom House retrieved the ball so Aaron could have it.
The game was on NBC that night and when two fans approached Aaron as he rounded the bases, I was too naïve to think they were a threat. But Aaron’s wife Billye wasn’t. She was worried. Wardlaw and the snipers decided not to shoot. And they congratulated him and moved away (alcohol may have been involved).
And because the Dodgers were the Braves’ opponent that night, Vin Scully, as he does, had maybe the perfect call.
When Jackie Robinson played in Cincinnati, which as close as it gets to the South, Pee Wee Reese who was from Louisville, Kentucky, made a point of standing next to Robinson during infield practice, putting his arm around him, showing acceptance.
Later, after teammate Pete Reiser said that democracy should means everyone is equal, Reese said, “Well, that’s true, but Jackie is catching special hell because he’s the only black player. Maybe we ought to to something to make it more equal.”
Robinson, Aaron, Willie Mays, and countless others bore a weight I can only imagine. And for the most part, they did it with a sense of grace and class that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t approach. From the time he was a kid in Mobile and his mother made him hide under the bed when the Klan came by, thought the death threats, and beyond, he–along with others in similar shoes–had every right to be angry and bitter.
But they weren’t, and that was their gift to us. All while they were trying to be more equal, so they could be truly equal.
After his playing career, Aaron continued his fight to continue to integrate baseball and life. He was the first black to hold a senior management position with a major league team (the Braves) and he founded the Chasing the Dream foundation to support underprivileged kids.
It wasn’t until 1974 that baseball had a black manager (Frank Robinson of the Indians). The following year, Bill Lucas became the first black general manager in baseball, taking over the Braves. It wasn’t until 1989 that the NFL, a majority black league, had its first black head coach in Art Shell.
And it last May, 46 years after Aaron’s home run, that a white police officer knelt on a black man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died. It wasn’t remotely the first time something like that happened, but it was the first time we finally took notice.
Because blacks tend to be reluctant to get medical care and there are concerns they won’t get the coronavirus vaccine, Aaron and his wife Billye joined Andrew Young and Louis Sullivan to get the vaccine just two weeks ago. He hoped his action would spur others to follow suit.
In short, Henry Aaron, though he was never my favorite ballplayer, casts a long shadow for me. Sometimes he made me uncomfortable with the mirror his statements and positions held up. And that’s a good thing.
The Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers, who Aaron played for the last two years of his career, both retired his number. The Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United soccer team will both retire his number 44 this year in honor of him.
Hopefully some of the people who shouted or wrote hateful things in 1974 have had the opportunity to reconsider those things. Hopefully his example of grace under pressure and abuse opened their eyes.
Henry Aaron died in his sleep Friday. He was 86. The world was a better place for Henry Aaron’s presence in it. It’s poorer for his passing.
“If we have this hierarchy that the king is worth more than the queen, then this subtle inequality influence people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying, ‘hey, you’re less important.'” That’s a quote from Indy Mellink, a 23-year-old forensic psychology graduate who has created a genderless deck of playing cards so Kings can’t be worth more than Queens.
Her cards replace Kings, Queens, and Jacks with Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
Because feelings. And maybe an endorsement deal with the Olympics.
So far, Mellink has sold about 1,500 decks of her new, woke playing cards to assure that people can feed their gambling addiction and fight the patriarchy at the same time.
My first reaction on seeing this story was to role my eyes so hard that they almost stuck that way. It’s stupid.
Then I thought again.
To be clear, I’ll never think there’s a moral or ethical imperative to modify playing cards. And I don’t intend to throw out mine and get with the 21st century. I’m a purist when it comes to playing cards.
But it is a free society, which means if Ms. Mellink wants to create gender-free playing cards, she gets to do that. As Voltaire once didn’t say, “I disagree with with your stupid playing cards, but I’ll defend to the death your right to play Blackjack…err, Blackbronze with them.”
And if she can make money selling them to other people who feel the same way, that what we capitalists call “living the dream.”
That freedom extends both ways. The people who prefer to play with the queen of hearts (knowing it ain’t really smart), also get to do that. Especially Juice Newton.
And Kevin James.
Put another way, you can have my suicide king when you pry him from my cold, dead hand.
For everything that happened yesterday, the other shoe never dropped.
President Trump left the White House in the morning and gave what was, for him, a graceful speech. Then he went to Florida. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris went to church with Mike Pence and congressional leaders. They all assembled at the Capitol. Lady Gaga and JLo sang. Amanda Gorman spoke.
Kamala Harris took her oath. Joe Biden took his.
The rest of the day went as scripted. We all went to bed.
And the other shoe never dropped. No one insulted everyone who dared to disagree. No one stormed any government buildings. Nothing blew up.
Instead of some fool running around in face paint and a viking hat, we had Bernie Sanders looking like a grumpy old man wearing his 50-year-old mittens.
It was almost boring in comparison. It was wonderful.
To be fair, a great deal happened yesterday. But none of it was incendiary. And none of it required you to pledge your absolute fealty to the people involved and every word that sprang from their lips.
President Biden’s speech was like a salve. Over and over, he said we needed to stop dividing ourselves. He implied that although we don’t always agree on policies, most of us aren’t taking positions just to screw the living hell out of people we don’t like. He said I might disagree with him on policy–and that’s okay.
And it was better than okay. It was perfect.
For people who aren’t white dudes, it was a big deal. A woman in now vice president. A woman of color. The stage included JLo speaking in Spanish, a black poet, and a white guy wearing jeans, showing that while some may wish otherwise, inclusion of minorities doesn’t mean exclusion of white guys in jeans.
There’s an understandable fear from the right that this new administration will mark the end of the freedom to diverge from progressive viewpoints. If you don’t comply with the enlightened stance of the day, you suck and are not part of civilized society. I’m not alone in feeling that.
But President Biden’s conciliatory words weren’t just something he pulled out yesterday so he could sucker everyone into docile acceptance. They’ve been part of his approach since the beginning of the campaign. They’re the reason a number of people on the left still aren’t happy with his becoming president, because they are the enemy.
We’ve had four years of they are the enemy.
We need four years of we may disagree on approach and still be united in purpose.
It was almost quaint yesterday, seeing everyone at least pretend to be civil. In a cycle where reality has mirrored the big-budget action films that used to dominate theaters (when we went to them), there were no explosions, no heroics, no last-minute twist ending.
Yesterday was a lot of things to a lot of people. But at the root of it, it was the return of the ability to disagree and remain civil. It’s a concept that liberty demands. Liberty is built on disagreement and acceptance.
It means we’re gonna have the same partisan divides we’ve always had. And that’s okay, as long as we agree on principles. The guy in charge said so.
When the #MeToo movement was most powerful, it exposed a lot of things that needed exposing. But after the ritual bloodletting, it’s not clear whether anything’s really changed in Hollywood.
In sports, women are making inroads. In baseball, Kim Ng’s hiring as Marlin’s GM was appropriate and overdue. But her hiring, and others, isn’t stopping the other side of the story. This time, it’s Mets general manager Jared Porter, who’s acknowledged sending a foreign female journalist suggestive texts and pictures while he worked for the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
The Mets fired Porter yesterday, just a couple weeks after he pulled off one of the best trades in franchise history. And just a few hours after ESPN broke the harassment story. Within a few hours, owner Steve Cohen said the Mets had fired him.
There’s no chance Porter is a victim in this story. He admitted to the texts and even said the pictures weren’t of his genitalia, but that they’re “joke stock images.”
There’s such at thing as redemption, but it requires contrition, hard work, and time. It’s too soon and Porter has no seeming desire to at least pretend to be contrite and put the time in.
The woman in question, who has since left journalism, is not from the United States. When ESPN first approached her in 2017 after getting word of Porter’s activity, she declined to cooperating, saying she feared for her job. She came forward now after Porter was named GM because Porter now has a lot more power over other people. But because of her home country’s culture, she still doesn’t want to be named.
Mets President Sandy Alderson (a man) indicated her nation of origin, which made her situation worse. How many women from a specific country outside the US covered the Cubs that year? This is a woman who did nothing wrong, except trying to do her job. And Alderson victimized her again.
Although come criticized the time frame (less than 24 hours), Cohen clearly did the right thing here. But when Alderson was asked if there were problems with the Mets’ vetting, his answer was no. It would’ve been better if the team said they’d revisit their vetting process to see if improvements were possible.
Women are increasingly becoming a part of men’s sports. And to some degree, they need to acclimate to the people they’re covering. But 60 texts and 17 pictures, all of which appear to be of a sexual nature isn’t any more acceptable in a sports context than it would be at your place of work.
Perhaps instead of simply being fired, people who do what Porter admitted to should be given lengthy unpaid suspensions to prevent them from serving a short, meaningless penance, then resurfacing somewhere else. Perhaps employers should have to share in the penalties by forfeiting draft picks and being fined.
That last thing isn’t fair, but neither is being driven out of your career by a guy who views your femininity as a license to treat you like a disposable set of female sex organs.
There’s no world in which it should be acceptable to do what Porter did. There’s no yeah, but what about… in this story. He was asked about this and he admitted it, then joked about it. As women increasingly become more involved in men’s sports, Major League Baseball and the rest of big-money men’s sports need to do more to assure that they’re treated with basic respect and allowed to do their jobs.
It’s been a quarter century since the Buffalo Bills lost their last of four consecutive Super Bowls. After beating the Baltimore Ravens this weekend, they moved within one step of the promised land.
During their 17-3 win in the second round of the AFC playoffs, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. By the time the game was over, someone had posted to a Bills fan website and suggested that Bills fans donate to one of Jackson’s favorite charities: Blessings in a Backpack, which “mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry.”
By Sunday night, Bills’ fans had donated more than eleven thousand times and raised nearly $300,000.
Nice work Bills fans. Enjoy this year–the Jets won’t be two extra bye weeks next season.
Keith Olbermann thinks that because of the risk involved, the inauguration should be moved off the very same Capitol grounds that saw the attempted coup two weeks from tomorrow.
Olbermann, never one to be bogged down in understatement when politics is concerned, raises the point that the FBI is vetting all 25,000 of the National Guard members selected to provide security for the inauguration. He says that if just one of them turns, it will mar the ceremony.
I, never one to be bogged down by agreeing with Mr. Olbermann, disagree. Security for Wednesday’s event is more than 25,000 National Guard members. Large swaths of our Capitol, including the entire National Mall, are shut down. Rather than the movable crowd-control barriers in place last week, unscalable fencing has been erected around multiple targets in DC. Even media has been limited.
And regular folks, the people who might otherwise take the day off and witness an historic day in our country’s history–they won’t be found. For them, the ceremony is already virtual–not because of the Covid, but because of the insurrection.
When you drive north toward DC on I-395, you crest a hill where you can see the city–not all of it, but enough that if you take a few second to think about it, you can be awed by the history you can take in in just one glance.
You can’t see the White House from there, or the Lincoln Memorial, but you can see the Washington Monument. And you can see the Capitol.
Both are closed. Some wonder whether the Capitol, the place where–for all our bitching about them–the largest group of people making policy meet on a regular basis. If any of the three branches should have its offices at least accessible by you and me, it’s Congress.
The people who hate America enough to sell its soul to a tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood have taken that from us, perhaps permanently. The created an environment where ABC journalist Alex Stone, who will cover the inauguration, has been told not to wear his press credentials, lest wannabe insurrectionists take offense and do something to him.
When you lead the most powerful country on earth, appearance is part of the job. And risk comes with the territory. So yes, as Mr. Olbermann says, it’s a show. It’s more symbol than substance, but that’s precisely why it must go on. The symbols, always important, are now vital.
To stand in a gleaming stage two weeks to the day after anti-American assholes tried to ruin our country, and take over for the man they sold their souls to, is an important symbolic gesture. To pass up that opportunity is to justify their actions and invite more.
Mr. Olbermann wonders if it’s worth an inauguration where Proud Boys get shot. To answer his question, yes. I would absolutely prefer an inauguration where anyone who tries to attack the rightfully elected President gets shot. Make him into a colander.
We’re already scaling back what you can do in our nation’s Capitol, a place where generations have gone to soak up our national experience. When my daughter lived there, she would regale us with stories about who she saw at Whole Foods that week. Those days are gone, maybe forever.
Those are sacrifices we may have to make.
But if you want to try to pull all that down–if you want to remove the American experiment that’s gone on for almost 250 years–you need to understand the risk you’re taking.
If anyone attempts to breach security Wednesday, the Secret Service, National Guard, and other responsible parties will be fully justified in making what happened to Ashli Babbitt look like a picnic. And if anyone is found guilty of supporting such an attempt, the federal government will be fully justified in dropping them into a hole so deep they’ll never see national light again.
The people who tried to pull down this country must know that they’ve awaken a formidable opponent–that they’ve started a fight they should’ve avoided.
That’s already started with the investigation and arrest of those who violated our nation last week and raped our freedoms. God may have mercy on their souls (and I hope he does), but here, there are costs for such actions. The more forcefully those costs are levied, the sooner we can re-open our city and the rest of our country and move freely about in it.
I won’t quote Martin Luther King today. As a conservative in this environment, it’s not for me to do that. But that doesn’t mean I’m minimizing his impact.
It’s easy for me, as a comfortable suburban white guy who’s largely voted Republican, to appreciate the guy whose approach to injustice is much more comfortable to me than people wanting to take revenge for centuries of subhuman treatment. For untold murders and absolute miscarriages of justice. For the Tuskegee experiment that purposely infected black men with STDs until 1972. For the Tulsa race massacre, something we were never taught at any level of American history. For the relatively minor injustice that the NFL–a majority black league–didn’t have a black head coach until 1989.
After people tortured him to his eventual death, Jesus could’ve called down legions of angels for appropriate revenge. Dr. King could’ve called for the same type of revenge.
And he died anyway, executed.
So today’s good thing is that in fits and starts, we’re opening our eyes as a society. We’re recognizing areas where the system, which should ideally be neutral, is stacked against the poor and people of color.
Dr. King wasn’t perfect. But his non-violent approach made a huge difference.
Today’s good thing is that we’re moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.