Another HOF Snub

I’m a homer. I admit it. I’m a Denver Broncos fan. I bleed orange and blue. Today, I’m red, as in angry.

My home team bias aside, the latest in a long list of Hall of Fame snubs is ridiculous. The Broncos had three players in the final ten: Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater and John Lynch. Six of the ten were voted in.  All three were left out. Again.

The Denver Broncos play in their record-tying eighth Super Bowl today. Only six men who have played for the team are in the Hall. One of those, Tony Dorsett, played the bulk of his career for Dallas, and in Denver for a single, forgettable year. He doesn’t count.

Only three of the remaining five, Floyd Little, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe spent the bulk of their careers with Denver. Gary Zimmerman and Willie Brown had productive years here, but spent most of their playing careers on other teams.

How does a team that has been to the Super Bowl more than all but two other teams have so few inductees in the Hall? The Kansas City Chiefs, with three AFC championships and a single Super Bowl victory, have 18 (including Joe Montana and Mike Webster, who were short-term add-ons at the end of their careers). The Oakland Raiders, with five AFL/AFC championships and three Super Bowl victories during their glory years, have an astounding 26 in the Hall (Eric Dickerson, Ron Mix and Rod Woodson were late-career rentals). The San Diego Chargers, who have been to the big dance only once and lost, have an even dozen, ten of whom count (John Mackey and Johnny Unitas played there for a year).

All three of this year’s finalists were worthy and may eventually get in, but the list of those continually left out of the conversation is galling. How do Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Rod Smith, Karl Mecklenburg, Goose Gonsoulin, Lionel Taylor, Rich Jackson and Dan Reeves, to name a few of the most deserving, not have a bust in Canton?

And  the voters didn’t take the opportunity to honor Pat Bowlen, one of the most respected and successful owners in league history, while he was still capable of accepting and appreciating it.

That may be the Hall’s biggest crime of all.

 

Look! Over there!

Really, people!

You’ve been obsessed with the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting for more than two days now. What has happened to your legendary short attention span?

We have a presidential campaign going on, and this is no time to get fixated on irrelevant topics like American terrorists or gun control. Please direct your attention to the real issue here, Syrian refugees.

Some of you will point out that Syrian refugees pose no immediate threat to this country, that the security process already in place  is stringent and that it will take at least 18 months before a single one can be cleared to enter this country, by which time the election will already be ancient history, but that misses the important point: that keeping the electorate worried about hypothetical threats is vastly preferable to having to come up with real solutions to genuine problems.

There is a real risk, if we don’t turn our gaze from Colorado Springs, that people will start noticing that American citizens shoot each other with alarming frequency, accounting for many more deaths and injuries than foreign terrorists can even dream of inflicting, and that our ridiculously ineffective and inconsistent patchwork of gun laws allows pretty much anyone, no mater how mentally unbalanced, to assemble an arsenal that would make a SWAT team swoon with jealousy.

Okay, if you still insist on focusing on the latest mass murder, consider this: if everyone in that clinic and all the people in that shopping center had been armed, the shooter would have thought twice about choosing that area as a target. Yes, I know that the officer who was killed was armed, and that the other five cops who were wounded were also, but that just proves that everyone needs to be even better armed. I know, there are already as many guns as people in this country. Evidently we need two guns for everyone. Or more.

And making it harder to get guns in the first place won’t stop someone who’s determined to kill people; all it will do is inconvenience law-abiding citizens. I say this despite a mountain of convincing evidence to the contrary, because it sounds good and most people don’t pay attention to actual facts, anyway.

I’ve already heard talk that mentally unbalanced people like the shooter are easily influenced by things like the selectively edited video that purported to show Planned Parenthood illegally selling body parts, and by the inflammatory rhetoric of anti-abortion activists, calling doctors who perform abortions murderers and comparing them to Nazi exterminators, but hey, what about free speech rights? Besides, the guy who made the video wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, so I don’t see how we can blame anyone but the shooter.

But enough about Colorado Springs. It’s an old story already. The news channels have been covering it non-stop and the newspapers have already devoted thousands of column inches to it. There’s nothing more to be learned here. One obviously mentally ill man killed three people and wounded eight more. Sure, it’s tragic, but it pales in comparison to the real threat we face.

The Syrians are coming.

Spotlight

I saw “Spotlight” yesterday, the film about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals.

It’s a terrific film, a must-see in my opinion, despite my reservations about the accuracy of some of the scenes. As a journalist I’m not a fan of the slippery disclaimer, “based on true events,” which allows the film-makers to take any liberties they want and still claim their film is somehow accurate.

That said, the film convincingly documents the role of the Globe and its investigative team in unearthing the Church’s appalling cover-up of a vast scandal.

It’s been almost seven years since the Rocky Mountain News closed up shop, and I still suffer pangs of homesickness when I see newspaper newsrooms. There’s no place else like them, and once one works for any length of time on a daily newspaper, no other work, no matter how satisfying, comes close. One of the main reasons is the satisfaction of seeing the effect of an important story on the community, especially when it’s a revelatory piece of reporting.

This film reinforced my belief that the decline of the printed press is nothing short of a catastrophe for our democracy. What other institution can devote the time and resources necessary to unearth a scandal of this magnitude? As the movie makes abundantly clear, this story could not have been told except by reporters and editors with deep connections to the community and with the support of a substantial local publication. It’s hard to imagine any of the news-oriented websites, bloggers or pundits that are supplanting the printed press having the ability to support this kind of work.

At the very end of the film, there’s a scene in the office of the Spotlight team with the phones ringing off the hook as hundreds of victims of priestly abuse call to add their stories to the record.
In an odd twist, the supposedly least interactive of media, the newspaper,  benefitted immensely from the interaction between the publication and its readers. In the end, the Globe ran more than 600 stories about the scandal, many of those fueled by the continued conversation between the newspaper staff and the paper’s audience.

That dynamic interplay between the newspaper and the readers has been, in my opinion, a crucial part of maintaining a healthy society, and I wonder if anything will, or can, ever replace it..

 

Be Very Afraid

Today, just a week after the horrific events in Paris, a day after another deadly terrorist attack in Mali, I am announcing my candidacy. I am running for office not for myself, not from any personal desire for glory, but out of a sincere belief that this country is being led, tragically, in the wrong direction.

It is clear to me that my opponent is out of touch with the American people and dangerously naive about the threats we face at home and abroad. He would have you believe that the appropriate response to the growing menace of terrorism is to double down on the traditional American values of openness and inclusiveness. He would tell you that the American people are strongest when we refuse to alter our way of life out of fear. He would have you believe that the greatest threat to our nation is not murderous jihadists but abandoning our core values in the face of terrorism.

To that I say, fear, fear itself, is the only reasonable response. My message to you, my fellow Americans, is simply this. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My opponent will likely point out that in the last decade only 24 Americans have died from terrorist attacks in this country. He will tell you that every single year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns and another 30,000 die in auto accidents. He will remind you that mentally unstable mass murderers with insanely easy access to guns have killed more than 900 in that same period.

To that I say, so what? These things happen. My opponent would have us waste precious time and limited resources by making it harder for homegrown terrorists and the mentally ill to get guns, taking away our precious freedoms in the process, when we should be eavesdropping on every phone call, text message and Facebook posting, building a giant wall around the entire country, and preventing even one single immigrant from coming here, even if most of them are fleeing the very terrorism we have just witnessed. Yes, once we were a nation of immigrants, but that was then, and this is now. We must also commit hundreds of thousands of troops to an endless war against a shadowy enemy in a dozen countries, with no clear strategy or end game, and with the real risk of further inflaming and emboldening our enemies.

What I propose will cost billions, perhaps trillions, will end once and for all America’s long-standing tradition of welcoming the downtrodden and oppressed to our shores, will likely result in many more American casualties than the terrorists would ever be able to inflict otherwise, and won’t do a thing to prevent radicalized or deranged American citizens from going on murderous rampages, but it will give us the comforting illusion that we’re doing something. The world is just too dangerous for us not to pretend that tough talk, knee-jerk xenophobia and pointless war-mongering is the answer.

We can’t be too safe.

Or too afraid.

I promise, if elected, I will do my best every minute of every day to keep every American in a constant state of fear.

Obama’s Failed Strategy

We of the opposition have officially had it with this president! I think I speak for every Republican when I say that Obama’s response to the threat of the Islamic State  is either incredibly naive, or worse, criminally stupid.

He actually refuses, in the wake of the carnage in Paris, to  alter his administration’s tragically failed policy against ISIS. Despite the horrific bloodshed, and the obvious ongoing threat of more, he still wants to stay the course. Still no American troops committed to the battle, still total reliance on untrustworthy Arab partners for military action, still wholly invested in a woefully ineffective air campaign, while ISIS gobbles up more territory and expands its threat to the civilized world. Sure,the president says this misguided, weak-kneed policy was developed in concert with and support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s intelligence community, but come on! This is the best they could come up with?

What’s the alternative, you ask? Hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground? A multi-front war that consumes vast resources against a shadowy army operating in vast ungoverned areas of half a dozen failed states across North Africa and the Mideast?

Of course not. That would be almost as  foolish as the president’s current inept strategy.

Instead, unlike Obama,  we would use American strength and know-how to lead a broad coalition of trusted Arab partners to take the fight directly to the enemy, supported with an intensive campaign using all the available resources of America’s superior air power, including fighters, bombers and drones.  In this scenario, we would need no American boots on the ground, but we would use our expertise, advanced technology and tactical superiority to arm, train and direct our regional partners.  And we would develop this multi-pronged strategy  in close  consultation with  America’s military leadership, along with the CIA and the National Security Agency.

What a difference this kind of bold leadership, combined with a clear, comprehensive strategy, would make,  if only our president would listen.

Going for 100

For the past several years my beloved Colorado Rockies, the local semi-pro baseball team, has flirted with an historic achievement–100 losses in a season, a number which assures that a team is genuinely awful and not merely very bad.

Most fans will have tuned them out by now, given that by mid-June the Rockies are usually so far behind in the standings that they play no part in the pennant race.  I, however, have found a way to stay interested in the fortunes of the team until the very last day of the regular season.

I am rooting for them to lose 100 games, a mark the Rox have never achieved in 24 years of mostly lousy baseball.

They have been so very, very close for the last four years, but have been unable to lose enough squeakers late in the season. One more bullpen meltdown here, a botched double play there, a failed bunt attempt or two, and they might have made it happen. But no. Inexplicably, they manage to avoid just enough fundamental breakdowns to pull out a handful more than the 62 wins required.

In 2012 they very nearly made it, losing 98. It was heartbreaking. They fell apart in 2013 with a mediocre 88, sometimes playing almost competent ball, but roared back last year with 96. This season they’ve given me new reason to hope. With a the worst starting pitching in baseball, a truly dreadful bullpen, a punchless lineup, at 24 games under .500  they are on track to lose 96 again this year, meaning that the final weeks of the season are critical.

One can only hope that the September call-ups, especially the pitchers,  will be even more horrendously inept than the current roster of forgettables, and that they’ll manage to boot just enough games to make it to the magic century mark. How exciting it will be if they can reach the final contest with 99 losses, and that last game, against the Diamondbacks on September 30, really matters for a change. That will be one to watch!

Go Rockies! You can do it!

Who Does This Pope Think He Is?

Okay, I’m done. Over it. Finished. I’ve had it. I  gave this guy every chance, but this time he went too far.

I was fine when the previous two Popes were all bent out of shape about contraception and abortion and gay marriage. As long as the Catholic Church was obsessed with how other people behaved in their private lives, I had no problem with the Pontiff. I’m not gay and my wife is too old to have any more kids, so what do I care?

But this time it’s personal. Who the Hell does this Pope Francis guy think he is, anyway, telling me how to run my business?  SteinCorp is a multi-billion-dollar international manufacturing/energy/pharmaceutical conglomerate. If for one moment I let myself believe in human-caused climate change, I would have to seriously reconsider how we do business all over the world. Making changes on that scale would be inconceivably catastrophic to our bottom line.

And don’t lecture me about the poor. My business gives plenty to charity. And where would my employees in Bangladesh be without the $5 a day I pay them? And is it my fault that building collapsed? Like I can spend my time inspecting every one of our facilities around the world. Plus, they’re used to breathing air the color of dirt and handling poisons that would fell a bull elephant. Are any of them going to live one day longer if I shut down my factories and throw them out on the street?

What would you have me do–believe in what all those know-it-all scientists believe, or what is convenient and expedient for me to believe? Answer to the Pope or to my shareholders? Hmm, let me mull that one over.

Fortunately, the majority of the members of Congress, many of whom I have generously supported with massive campaign contributions (you’ll have to guess which ones. I don’t have to tell and neither do they), have my back on this one.  And I can tell you for a fact that most of them are not happy with this Pope one bit. So long as the Church was aligned with the Republican social agenda, we were all good. But now? How dare you meddle in politics?

So, Mr. High and Mighty Pope Francis, if you want to waste your life worrying about the planet, do it in private and stop bothering me. I have a company to run.

You’ll do yourself and the Church a lot more good if you get your nose out of my business and back into the bedroom, where it belongs.

 

No Recall

Stei090225_CMYK

United States of America
Division of Government

Product Update:

Dear Stakeholder,

We have recently discovered a serious flaw in your governmental democracy. Unless repairs are made, permanent damage to your country is likely to result.

The engine was originally designed to run on a lean mixture of limited campaign funding and broad contact with voters. However, recent changes made to the power plant have had the unfortunate consequence of forcing your vehicle to run on robust infusions of cash from limited sources. As a result, the direct contacts with the public have been dangerously eroded, resulting in frequent misfiring, poor performance and occasional complete shutdowns.

Unfortunately, there is no single, simple repair that can fix the problem. We have investigated a number of possible solutions, but so far have found nothing that will work permanently.

At this time, our best suggestion is a complete factory recall of your government. To date, we have been unable to convince the appropriate agencies, which would of necessity be included in such a recall, to agree to issue such an order. This is likely the result of an additional design flaw, apparently built into the system from the beginning, and has frustrated every effort to fix the current problem.

That leaves the next election as your last, best and perhaps only recourse.

Good luck.

Hillary’s Money

The campaign of Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, is off to a rocky start.  Even before she announced her candidacy, critics were questioning contributions made to the Clinton Foundation, the charitable organization run by Ms. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

“Some of the money they accepted from foreign entities while she was Secretary of State sure is revealing, ” said former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is one of many vying for the Republican nomination. “You really have to wonder whose interests she was serving. You can’t say that if you don’t know where the money comes from.”

“Why on earth would the Clintons take money from places like Saudi Arabia if she knew she was going to run?” added Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “It makes no sense. Why didn’t she funnel everything to a super PAC? That way she could have kept it private.”

Jeb Bush, whose own Right to Rise super PAC has raised tens of millions in secret money, agreed. “The Clinton Foundation reports its contributions. We know who’s writing the checks. It’s idiotic for a candidate for national office to be that open. Good grief, if the public knew who was giving me money, they’d go nuts.”

“I don’t agree with Jeb on much. Well, actually, all of us GOP candidates agree on pretty much everything,” chimed in Florida Senator Marco Rubio, “but we all agree that secret, untraceable money is the key to getting elected. I mean, if the people really understood whose bidding we’d be doing once we’re in office, there’d be a revolution in this country.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was typically blunt. “Follow the money. The Clintons are raking it in, and we know exactly from where and from whom.  Do you think for one minute I would reveal where my funding comes from? It would be like me admitting I knew about the traffic problems on the bridge.

“In this day and age in America, that level of transparency is simply unheard of. It really makes you question whether Hillary has the judgement to be president.”

Messin’ With Texas

Texas governor Greg Abbott, responding to internet rumors of a planned military takeover of the Lone Star State, has called out Texas State Guard forces to “monitor” a large U.S. military training exercise, named Operation Jade Helm.

Officials in Washington debunked the notion that President Obama is trying to put Texas under martial law.

“We have no intention of taking over Texas,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter explained. “Quite the opposite, we’re there to keep Texas from taking over the rest of the country.

“After watching Texas grow increasingly paranoid and unpredictable under the governorships of Rick Perry and Abbott , we’re simply moving to prevent further contamination of the other 49 states.”

“To begin with,” added Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, “Texas is the poster child for income inequality in America.  You’d think that with such a high rate of poverty and so many millionaires, they’d want to find  ways to help people at the bottom, but the reverse is true.

“Even though they have the highest percentage of people without health insurance in the country, they refused Obamacare. They turned their back Medicaid expansion, and only Alabama has more restrictive Medicaid eligibility. It’s as though they’re at war with the poor.”

“Only one state has more gun murders.” noted the Surgeon General’s office, “and no state has looser gun laws. Their solution seems to be to let Texans kill each other and then execute the killers. They put more prisoners to death than any other state in the union by far. It’s a truly bizarre system.”

Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Federal Elections Commission, commented that, “between gerrymandered districts and the outrageous voting restrictions, Texas is one of the least democratic states in the country.  There’s a reason Texans keep electing the people they do.”

“Honestly, the last thing we want is to occupy Texas,” the Defense Secretary explained. “We just don’t want whatever’s going on there to spread.

“Frankly, it would be be big relief if Mexico would just take it back.”

 

The online home of editorial cartoonist, writer and analyst Ed Stein.